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San Franciscans Celebrate Valentine’s Day By Registering As Domestic Partners

February 14, 1991

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Wally MacMillan and Richard Faust, wearing matching tuxedo shirts, were among the first to sign up today as domestic partners under a city ordinance allowing unwed couples to register their romance.

About a dozen couples were waiting when City Hall opened for an expected Valentine’s Day deluge of gays, lesbians and unwed heterosexuals taking advantage of the first opportunity to sign up under the new law.

″Being gay ... I had put the idea of marriage out of my mind, and here we are, registering our relationship,″ said MacMillan, 37, a San Francisco architect.

″It’s a historic event and we wanted to be part of it,″ said Faust, a 29- year-old truck driver.

Also in the first wave were Christmas Leubrie, a 41-year-old nurse, and her lover of six years, Alice Heimsoth, 39, a city health worker.

″We worked hard on this,″ said Leubrie, who was active in the campaign to get the law approved by voters last November. ″It’s about love and recognition of relationships.″

City Hall already had 100 weddings scheduled. Nobody could predict how many domestic partners would show up to add to the throng - estimates ranged from 50 to 5,000.

″We have no idea,″ said E. La Vergne Keppard, assistant county clerk. ″We’re trying to make sure people know that if they come in on the 14th, they’ll have to wait.″

Couples must pay a $35 fee and file their declaration with the county clerk. The filing takes about five minutes, but the wait in line could be up to an hour, Keppard said.

Afterward, a multidenominational ceremony was to recognize each unmarried couple, with their names announced as they stroll down City Hall’s rotunda stairway.

Among those planning to register was Jean Harris, an aide to Supervisor Harry Britt, a longtime advocate of the domestic-partners law.

″My lover is very unpolitical,″ Harris said. ″She doesn’t want to do this public thing. She wants to keep it separate from my political life. But this is political.

″It’s like moving from the back seat of the bus to the front.″

Britt’s staff handed out thousands of flyers about the law in the city’s predominantly gay Castro district, and Harris said the supervisor’s office has been flooded with calls from people planning to register.

Voters passed the law in November after narrowly rejecting a similar ballot initiative in 1989. The city’s Board of Supervisors had adopted a domestic partners ordinance in 1982, but former Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed it as too costly.

The law that was passed is narrower in scope than the earlier proposals. It does not provide any benefits for domestic partners, only letting them declare they have an intimate relationship, that they have lived together at least six months and that they will be jointly responsible for living expenses.

But some analysts have predicted it will be used by partners to bolster arguments on a variety of issues, including employee benefits, division of property and insurance coverage.

Similar laws exist in such cities as Seattle, West Hollywood, Santa Cruz and Madison, Wis.

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