Hawaii same-sex marriage pioneer Genora Dancel tied the knot with her partner of 15 years Tuesday, 23 years to the day that she and other gay activists had their gay marriages applications rejected at the state Health Department.
Dancel, 53, Kathryn Dennis, 43, were married in a short ceremony in the state Supreme Court as Dennis' parents and sister looked on.
On Dec. 17, 1990, Dancel and former partner Ninia Baehr, along with two other gay couples walked into the State Health Department and were denied marriage licenses, starting the battle for same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
"Today we stand and declare our love," Dennis said as she read her vows in Tuesday's ceremony. "Today, we stand before family and a few of our heroes to wed and to receive the respect of our union that you and Dan fought for."
She was referring to Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Dan Foley.
He married the couple in the same Supreme Court room where he represented those three gay couples in that first fight for marriage equality more than two decades ago.
"I declare, by the virtue of the authority vested in me by the state of Hawaii, that you are now married," Foley said as the wedding came to a close. "You may now kiss your bride."
"We have I don't know how many countries in North America, South America, Europe, Iceland, South Africa, New Zealand, that recognize same-sex marriage, and it all started in this court room 21 years ago," Foley told reporters after the ceremony.
"There's nothing to remember about how hard it was. All the bad went away. And it's just all good now," Dancel said after her wedding.
Dennis said, "I just feel like 'finally!' Because we've been together for 15 years and we asked each other to marry each other way back then and so now we're finally actually really married."
Dancel was pleasantly surprised last week when she went to the state Health Department to get her marriage license and the same clerk who rejected her license 23 years ago was able to approve it this time.
"And we hugged and I took a picture with her. Her name's Irene. And she said, 'Yes, I was told not to give you your licenses because they were expecting you,'" Dancel said the clerk recalled of that day back in 1990.
Dancel said she was proud to see two other same-sex couples at the Health Department getting their wedding paperwork when she went in to get her license.
"They weren't going to get discriminated against. And I think that was won by everyone and so now it's up to everybody to enjoy it and have that freedom," Dancel said.
Dancel is a lead electronic technician with the city's Wastewater Division. Dennis is an editor with NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. They live in Royal Kunia.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson who wrote the opinion saying gay couples had a constitutional right to marry was also at Tuesday's ceremony.
He's already presided over a dozen same-sex marriages this month.
"People are calling, emailing almost every day. People have been waiting a very long time. I'm going to be marrying a couple next week who've been together 48 years," Levinson said.
Levinson, who retired from the bench at the end of 2008, became a vocal same-sex marriage advocate in his retirement and was deeply involved in the push to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.
Foley summed things up by saying "Now it's the law, so this is just a regular marriage."
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