Mickey Neill, Sallyanne Monti and two of their four children went back and forth between their bedroom television and the computer in their office. A few minutes after 10 a.m., they finally found what they were looking for -- the California Supreme Court decision on the legality of the same-sex marriages in San Francisco.
"Oh, no," Monti said.
There it was, 114 pages encapsulated in one headline: "Court voids gay marriages."
"Well, we're relegated to second-class citizenship again," Monti said, looking as if she might cry.
Neill, Monti and their children are one of around 4,000 families affected by Thursday's ruling, which said the city violated the law when it issued the marriage certificates. The justices separately decided in a 5-2 vote to nullify the marriages performed between Feb. 12 and March 11, when the court stopped the weddings.
The four of them -- Neill, Monti and their teenage children Alyssa and Frank Polizzi -- stood looking at each other for a while after the ruling, but then went straight into action, heading downstairs to make posters for the San Francisco rally later in the day.
The ideas they'd brainstormed the night before were written on yellow sticky notes and posted on the dining room cabinet. "Got civil liberties?" Alyssa wrote on poster board in black marker. "Separate church and state, not my mothers!"
"We tried to think positive but to be global," Monti said. "It's really putting a face in front of folks that our families are just families. We have parents, pets, kids, jobs, doctor's visits, dentist's appointments."
Monti, 43, who has a New York accent and a sharp sense of humor, and Neill, 53, a tall, blond, manicured woman with a girlish smile, met nine years ago, when Monti typed in the wrong e-mail address and sent Neill a note intended for a friend. At the time, Monti lived on Staten Island in New York, and they were both married. But they became good friends. Eventually, they left their husbands, and in 1998 they became a couple.
The children are Monti's from her previous marriage. Frank, 13, and Alyssa, 15, attend Alameda High School; Christine, 18, is a student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, and Stephanie, 20, attends UC Davis.
Because they knew Neill as a friend and the "cool lady" they could talk to -- long before she became their mother's partner -- making the adjustment to having her as a stepmother wasn't hard, Alyssa and Frank said.
In 1999, the four kids and a friend who'd been living with the family moved into Neill's house in Alameda.
The older children were away, but on Feb. 16, Frank and Alyssa accompanied their mothers to San Francisco City Hall. They brought a tent, coffee and an ice chest, and after waiting in the dark and the rain for eight hours, the two women exchanged vows.
The hundreds of marriage rights they were hoping the license would bring are put off, again.
"We're kind of back to that zone where we don't know what we are," Neill said.
Neill, who is retired from a job with Alameda County, can get health care benefits for Monti. But she can't get coverage for the kids, as she would if she were in a heterosexual marriage.
They have to go back to relying on the legal papers they drew up years ago, which grant them inheritance rights and medical power of attorney. Though they've pooled their assets, they still have to file taxes separately and take extra steps when they buy property together.
They have no idea whether their car insurance company will jack up their rates again, now that the marriage is off -- legally, at least.
But they do have the word "wife," they said, and they're not giving it up.
Saying "significant other" or "domestic partner" never felt right, Monti said. "That's not who it is. This is the person who is most important to me," she said as she drew a rainbow border on a sign reading, "You revoked our license. You can't revoke our family."
"It was kind of disappointing, but I don't feel really sad, like they're not married anymore, they're just dating," Frank said. Even if they hadn't wed at City Hall, "I'd consider them married," he said. "Maybe even a little more, because they've been through so much."
At 3 p.m., the family gathered their signs and along with Frank's friends Becky Sotello and Ale Vargas-Johnson, headed to the city for the rally and march from the Castro district to the Civic Center.
Monti had been stoic earlier, but waiting in the Castro, her mouth was turned down at the corners.
"I'm more of a person who reacts after the fact -- that's how my brain works," Monti said. "It's a threat for my family not to be legally recognized as a family. That hurts me."
Earlier, she had said she was holding back tears because if she started crying, she wouldn't be able to stop. But holding her sign aloft and listening to speakers, the tears started to run down her face.
Neill rubbed her shoulder. Monti wiped her cheek with one hand.
Despite appearances, being with the crowd actually was soothing, Monti said.
"It really is for me an honor to be a part of this," she said. "To be surrounded in this way takes the panic away, because there is a sense of panic that you don't have rights to your own life."
Neill looked around at the cheering crowd. "They're not going to let it go," she said. "They're not."
As Hagrid said, "What's coming will come". What's coming is basic civil liberties--the right of every American to be treated exactly like every other American, no more, no less. When it does come, the people now trying to hold back justice might want to stand aside if they don't want to be buried by the avalanche.
Mark Morford agrees with me. I guess that means I'm in good company. *loves*