The sweet sounds of Pachelbel's Canon filled the City Council Chamber at Berkeley's historic Old City Hall as Karl Reeh and Mugur Anghel; Leland Traiman and Stewart Blandon; and Melinda Paras and Barbara Englis became the first same-sex couples to be married in Berkeley after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Proposition 8 and made marriage equality the law of the land in California.
The date was Oct. 11: not coincidentally, the 22nd anniversary of the day Berkeley became the first city in the country to pass a domestic partners law -- a stopgap measure that happily is no longer necessary.
Karl and Mugur were married by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, Leland and Stewart were married by Councilmember Darryl Moore, and Melinda and Barbara were married by School Board Director Judy Appel.
All three weddings were different, reflecting the wishes of the participants. Karl and Mugur wrote their own ceremony, as did Leland and Stewart. But Melinda and Barbara chose to repeat the same traditional wedding vows they took 18 years ago, almost two decades before marriages like theirs were recognized by the state.
All three couples were beaming with happiness, and there were more than a few sentimental sniffles, too. But to tell the truth, I wasn't watching the brides and grooms. I was watching their kids -- who, after all, are the people Vladimir Putin says he's trying to protect by passing laws that would forcibly take children away from their gay or lesbian parents.
Karl and Mugur are childless, but Leland and Stewart made son Julian, 14, and daughter Rosalinda, 8, part of their wedding party -- Julian as best man and Rosalinda as flower girl. Melinda and Barbara's daughter, Lorena, 14, was maid of honor for their ceremony, accompanied by her best friend, Maire O'Sullivan.
You should have seen the look on Lorena's face as she watched her mothers get married. She was SO proud of them. This day was her triumph, too. As for Rosalinda, an adorable little moppet with a smile a mile wide, she was clearly having the time of her life. She giggled, bounced and danced as she watched her fathers tie the knot. Her big brother occasionally had to reel her in and calm her down, but nothing was going to stop her from celebrating.
After the ceremony, as I watched her race across City Hall's front lawn, gleefully shouting "Dad-EEEEEE!" and leaping into Stewart's arms, it was obvious that there's no way she needs protection from the two men she calls "Daddy." What she needs is protection from people like Vladimir Putin.
If, as most religions teach us, every human being is a child of God, it seems to me that discriminating against people for simply being the way God made them is blasphemy. It's also bad public policy. We should encourage stable long-term relationships, not make it harder for them.
But mostly, I have a human reaction. It's so hard to find love in this sad world. If someone is lucky enough to find it, I say more power to them. Or, as Pope Francis says, "Who am I to judge?"
So whatever your sexual orientation -- straight, gay or somewhere in between -- I hope you're with someone you love. And if not, I hope you find that special someone soon.
Reach Martin Snapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.