In Jonelle Hirst’s mind, she has been happily married to Riley
Hirst since 2001. Having been friends for eight years, the couple
exchanged rings in a small private ceremony to cement their
commitment to each other and to acknowledge their desire to be a
family. But when the mayor of San Francisco announced three weeks
ago that the city now honors same sex marriages, she and Riley
decided to join the masses of people waiting in line outside city
hall to have their marriage legally recognized.
As the number of same sex marriages continues to expand, Mills
students Jonelle Hirst & her partner Riley as well as Mimi
Gephart-Seeley and her partner Tracy have decided to join the
thousands of same sex couples in San Francisco to tie the knot.
Although both couples have been together for eight years and are
deeply committed, the idea of having their marriage legally
recognized was the chance of a lifetime.
“It feels really good to be a part of this wave,” said Riley
Hirst, “We’re standing at the edge of where the world should
Mimi Gephart-Seeley said that the decision to get married made
“We had pretty much merged our lives together and legally, we
realized that we’re still [going to] have problems. We started to
realize that marriage meant really just committing our lives to
each other. And we started to realize that it meant it wasn’t just
a heterocentric thing. We had been planning on having our wedding
regardless of whether it’s legal or not,” she said.
For each couple getting married at City Hall, the experience was
a demonstration of support from the community, a cause for
celebration, as well as a test of patience.
The Hirsts remained patient as they waited together to be
married. They waited in line on Valentine’s Day with their
two-year-old daughter Gabby for three hours only to have the line
cut off two couples in front of them. They said they went back with
Gabby on President’s Day and waited in line for seven and a half
hours. For much of the time they said they took turns taking their
daughter to the playground outside of City Hall and supervising her
while she played with other children whose parents were waiting in
line to be married.
Jonelle Hirst said that after the small group of protestors left
in the morning, only large groups of supporters remained. She said
people were passing out coffee, bagels, donuts, and roses. Riley
Hirst added that there was entertainment from a mariachi band and a
tap dancing squad as well as cab drivers offering free rides to
“It is miraculous to do this in a climate where a vast majority
of people are in support. Flying to Vermont would not give me the
same feeling,” said Hirst.
Professional photographer Ann Meredith was at City Hall the day
the Hirsts were married to capture the images of all the newlyweds.
“This is something I never thought would happen so I’ve been crying
from the beginning.”
For Jonelle Hirst, although her legal marriage at city hall may
be in jeopardy, the experience will last a lifetime.
“I’m just so happy to be legally married even for a short amount
of time,” she said. “Nobody can take that away from me.”