This story is from the archives of UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Couple stands up for love — and a very human right

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what's on my mind

Frank Sinatra said it best. He famously crooned to lovers all over the world: “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage; this I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.”

The lyrics perfectly capture what my sister Nancy Felixson and Pam Cooke did — and why they did it — when they flew up to San Francisco the day before Valentine’s Day. After waiting four long but exciting hours, they stood before Assemblymember Mark Leno, who officiated at their wedding. It was a moment and a day to remember. I regret that I wasn’t in attendance.

Regardless of pending judicial challenges and legislation, my sister and her partner made history. As did, at the time of this writing, nearly 3,000 Cupid-inspired couples. For those, like me, who believe in and support same-sex marriage, these brave gay and lesbian couples took an exceptionally strong political and societal stand. It is, was and will be remembered as a rallying point in the human rights movement. One to be admired by romantics and pragmatists alike.

As a sister to Nancy and a sister-in-law to Pam, I’m happy and proud of them. By declaring their love and commitment publicly and officially, they truly pursued their dream. These two women, long active in political, legal, musical, athletic and family circles, have been in a devoted, stable and loving relationship for 12 1/2 years.

A decade ago, they had an extraordinary commitment ceremony in my mother’s backyard. My father walked Nancy down the aisle; Pam’s brother walked her. I had the honor of standing up for both of them as they declared their love and shared their vows in front of some 100 cheering relatives, colleagues and friends.

It was a wonderful scene that meant a great deal to everyone present, but the pair wanted more (and I wanted more for them). They wanted to be married — with all the legal rights enjoyed by married couples and the recognition by society that they are two people in love dedicated to making a life together.

Over the years, they encountered the same ups and downs most couples experience. And they are still together, ever more profoundly in love. For all intents and purposes, they have lived a married life. But filling out a marriage registration and sharing their vows before someone endowed with the legal right to marry them made all the difference.

At their commitment ceremony, Nancy and Pam had exchanged simple gold bands as tangible symbols of their union. Now, 10 years later, they exchanged gold bands embedded with diamonds. To me, their new rings symbolized how the rocks on their path of life have been transformed into priceless gems.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “marriage” as “any close or intimate union” and “a legal relationship.” But I’ll go for ol’ Blue Eyes singing, “Love and marriage, love and marriage. It’s an institute you can’t disparage. Ask the local gentry, and they will say it’s elementary.”

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