Film Documents First Same-Sex Wedding in San Francisco

One Wedding and...a Revolution

One Wedding and...a Revolution

Reveals the inspiration, motivation and political challenges at San Francisco City Hall during the frantic days leading up to the first government-sanctioned same-sex marriage.

Press Release

Academy Award–Winning Filmmaker Debra Chasnoff Documents First San Francisco Same-Sex Wedding of Lesbian Pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

San Francisco, CA – Debra Chasnoff, award-winning filmmaker, has recently documented one of the most historic moments in the movement toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. One Wedding and a Revolution is an emotional, funny, courageous look at the first wedding between a same-sex couple in San Francisco.

On February 12, 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered theSan Francisco county clerk to change city forms and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This courageous act made history and stated definitively that at least one public official believes in equal rights for all.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in strong support of the mayor, worked with members of Newsom’s staff to prepare for this historic moment.

After marriage-license paperwork was updated and city staff members were debriefed, Newsom’s political director called upon Kendell to help find the first couple to marry. She called upon two of the most valiant pioneers of the LGBT movement—Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon—to be the first to marry. The couple recently celebrated more than 50 years together and have been longtime activists working for LGBT rights.

“I called Del and Phyllis. Phyllis answered the phone, and I said, ‘I hate, to yet again, ask you to do one more thing for the movement. But, I want to know if you and Del want to get married and be the first couple married in the country by the city and country of San Francisco,’” Kendell said. “Phyllis responded by saying, ‘Well, lemme ask Del’. And we hung up the phone, and she called me back about ten minutes later and she said, ‘OK, we’ll do it.’”

In One Wedding and a Revolution , Chasnoff captures preparations for the wedding, as well as interviews with Newsom, Kendell and others. The film also includes exclusive video footage of the ceremony itself, presided over by San Francisco Assessor Mabel Teng.

“Joyce Newstat [the mayor’s policy director] called me and said ‘You’ve got to get down here with a film crew. The mayor is marrying Del and Phyllis in an hour,’” Chasnoff said, recalling the frenzy of activity the morning of February 12. “So I called our cinematographer and said ‘Do you have your camera with you? Come pick me up!’”

This 19-minute short is not to be missed. It is being released to LGBT film festivals nationwide in conjunction with gay pride activities taking place in June.

Filmmaker Debra Chasnoff has been on the cutting edge of social issues since 1984, making such films as Choosing Children, a groundbreaking documentary about lesbians becoming parents; the award-winning It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School; the 1991 Academy Award–winning Deadly Deception—General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment, which won for Best Documentary Short Subject; That’s a Family, which discusses family diversity from kids’ perspectives; and Let’s Get Real, a powerful documentary where kids speak up about name-calling and bullying.

Chasnoff is a producer/director at GroundSpark and co-creator of The Respect For All Project , a program that produces media and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people.