Rosie and Kelli tie the knot
February 28 2004 12:00 AM ET
Rosie O'Donnell married her longtime girlfriend Thursday, taking what she called a proud stand for gay civil rights in the city where more than 3,400 other same-sex couples have tied the knot since February 12. "I want to thank the city of San Francisco for this amazing stance the mayor has taken for all the people here, not just us but all the thousands and thousands of loving, law-abiding couples," the former talk-show host, holding a large bouquet, said after she and Kelli O'Donnell emerged from their brief ceremony inside Mayor Gavin Newsom's office.
The couple were married by Treasurer Susan Leal, one of the city's high-profile lesbian elected officials. The newlyweds walked hand in hand down the grand marble staircase in the rotunda to thunderous applause from hundreds of spectators who came to witness the city's first celebrity same-sex wedding. As the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus serenaded the couple with a few bars of "Chapel of Love," Rosie smiled and said, "We really did. We got married."
Rosie told the crowd that she and Kelli, who have been together six years and are raising four children, decided to dash to San Francisco after hearing President Bush on Tuesday endorse a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "We were both inspired to come here after the sitting president made the vile and hateful comments he made," Rosie said.
The couple left New York at 5 a.m in order to make their 1 p.m. appointment in San Francisco to pick up their marriage license. "One thought ran through my mind on the plane out here: with liberty and justice for all," Rosie said, drawing even more cheers as she held up her hand in a peace sign. She and Kelli then kissed for the cameras. The couple were flying back to New York later in the day to attend parents' day at their children's school Friday, Rosie said. She joked that with four children under the age of 8, they hadn't planned a honeymoon.
San Francisco City Hall, which has been transformed into a virtual wedding chapel since the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was packed with spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous couple to be married there so far. Tourists, reporters, and couples there for their own weddings vied for space on all three levels of the ornate building, while the chorus serenaded the crowd with renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "We Shall Overcome." In an interview, Leal said she wished others could have seen Rosie and Kelli as they took their vows to be "spouses for life.... There was not a lot of ad-libbing even though Rosie is a comedian. They smiled a lot, they had a lot of tears in their eyes. It was like any people who know they are entering into a solemn commitment."
The couple brought a friend from New York to serve as one of their witnesses and recruited Joe Caruso, the mayor's director of neighborhood services, to be the other. "It is a great pleasure and privilege to be part of history," Caruso said.
In an interview broadcast Thursday morning on ABC's Good Morning America, Rosie said she decided to marry Kelli, a former dancer and marketing director at Nickelodeon, during her recent court case in New York regarding the now-defunct Rosie magazine. During the trial she referred to Kelli as her wife. "We applied for spousal privilege and were denied it by the state. As a result, everything that I said to Kelli, every letter that I wrote her, every e-mail, every correspondence and conversation was entered into the record," Rosie said. "After the trial I am now and will forever be a total proponent of gay marriage."
California attorney general Bill Lockyer will ask the state supreme court on Friday whether San Francisco's issuing of same-sex marriage licenses violates state law, which designates marriage as only between a man and a woman.