By Desi Rubio, Oct. 23, 2014.
In matching suits — and with their pug, Hugo — Oscar De las salas and Gary Jackson, walked hand in hand from their hotel to the ferry dock off the San Diego Bay to exchange their wedding vows Aug. 17.
As the Arizona couple walked toward the 25 guests that awaited them at their intimate Coronado Island ceremony, they were greeted and applauded by strangers showing their support. A young San Diego couple and their child even stopped the couple to ask for a quick photo. Never did they expect the type of public support from the locals.
At that moment, politics, religion and equality did not matter — because they felt equal.
After dating for seven years, De las salas and Jackson knew marriage mattered and they expected a dream ceremony, even if it had to be out of state. However, what they did not expect was that shortly after they married, they would be that gay couple making headlines across the country.
Upon returning to Arizona, the newlyweds decided it was best to go forward to the media to share their story. Their decision to go to the media was based on empowering love and disassembling hatred.
“Homophobic heckler interrupts same-sex wedding in Coronado.” Yes. That was the couple’s wedding headline. The story was published near and far, and the picture-perfect day soon turned into a wedding nightmare — at least that was all the media focused on.
So they set out to change that.
According to De las salas and Jackson, that negative moment would not define or determine how their wedding day was depicted. To them, it was still the most beautiful day of their lives and married life has been nothing short of blissful since.
And, in sharing that private sentiment publically, the couple said they’ve experienced support from strangers around the world.
Jackson, who travels for work, has caught their story on local news cities around the world. And De las salas said he’s spent hours replying to thousands of emails – some of which are from individuals thanking them for being so brave and others from people offering generous gifts (including a free honeymoon offered by a British Columbia couple).
I Do, Do Over
One Coronado resident was so moved by the story that she, and three other residents, reached out and offered to throw the couple a second ceremony in hopes of making up the first.
So, on Oct. 11 — National Coming Out Day — De las salas and Jackson headed back to Coronado to redo their wedding vows, this time in front of 300 guests and zero hatred.
The couple started off the event on a romantic gondola ride, surrounded by roars of applause and cheers from the residents and business owners of Coronado. A moment Jackson described as an “outpouring of love,” adding that it was something he has never experienced before.
Once they arrived at the ceremony space, in attendees included city leaders, Councilmen, the fire chief, police officers, a principal from the local school and Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka, who officiated the ceremony during which he read a personal letter from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, offering the couple his support.
“The ceremony displayed such a strong connection between two cities and the respect for equality,” De las salas said. “It is the simple law of humanity.”
The ceremony was followed by an elegant dinner and reception where guests formed a receiving line and offered support and shared personal testimonials about their experiences with the LGBT community.
De las salas described an exchange he and Gary shared when two guests, the mother and father of a gay son.
“The dad could not even look me in the eye, he told me he felt ashamed because he could have been that heckler, and if it wasn’t for us … he would have never changed and accepted his son,” De las salas said. “Here is this grown man, crying in front of us, offering his support and telling us we deserve love — it was absolutely incredible.”
The newlyweds agreed that the overwhelming support from strangers was unexpected and described married life as the absolute secure recognition they’ve been yearning for their entire lives.
“Marriage to me, gave me more security in the relationship, it was something that changed for me and it was important,” Jackson said. “I’ve never really had a legal connection to somebody and legally, Oscar isn’t going anywhere.”
The couple’s second celebration not only offered them a second chance to experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but also brought awareness to an immeasurable audience.
“Going forward with the news was all worth it,” De las salas said. “It has changed our lives but it is worth it, because we have felt supported.”
As marriage equality gains momentum throughout country, and with the recent court ruling in the 9th Circuit Court, Oscar and Gary believe that acceptance is inevitable.
“Marriage equality is happening very fast, like a domino effect,” De las salas said. “… soon it will be the norm and everything will be OK, and we are thrilled.”
Five things to know about getting a marriage license in Arizona
1. Marriage licenses can be obtained at Maricopa County Clerk of the Superior Court’s office, 601 W. Jackson, Phoenix, as well as 14 other locations throughout Arizona (see website for details).
2. Both parties must be present to obtain a marriage license. Each individual is required to provide a valid government-issued photo ID to show proof of age.
3.The fee for a marriage license is $76 payable by cash or money order, bank guarantee card or credit card. If you are purchasing a license at the Justice Courts, only money orders are accepted.
4. A marriage license must be issued prior to the ceremony taking place, signed at completion of the ceremony, and returned by the officiator not more than 30 days after the ceremony has taken place in order for the license to be recorded.
5. You will receive your marriage license the same day you apply for it, and can be married on the same day, if you have made arrangements with an officiator of your choice to perform the ceremony. However, you have up to one year from the date the marriage license was issued to get married (the license expires one year from the date of purchase).