When Tom Rothgiesser was looking for an apartment in San Francisco five decades ago, he was rejected because he wanted to live with his male partner, George Lucas.
"We don't want want your kind here," the landlord said.
Rothgiesser didn't push it. He felt he was already on thin ice because he had lied on his green card, which required him to promise he wouldn't commit any "homosexual acts."
"I decided I could sign it because my homosexuality was not an act, it was the real thing," joked Rothgiesser, who was born in Germany.
Rothgiesser and George Lucas, both 79, went to San Francisco City Hall on Saturday to tie the knot after five decades together. Marrying them was James Warren, a retired Superior Court judge and grandson of Earl Warren, the famed Supreme Court justice who advanced civil rights nationwide.
Warren, 69, who has been friends with the couple for about a decade, said his grandfather would be thrilled.
"Equal protection under the law was the most important thing to him," he said. "He was rabidly in support of it."
Rothgiesser and Lucas met in South Africa, and when they came to the United States, they never saw marriage as a possibility.
"The idea was preposterous," Rothgiesser said.
Years later, when gay couples were marrying in 2008, they were traveling in New Zealand, where Lucas was born. By the time they made it back, Proposition 8 had passed, banning gay marriage.
With the law finally overturned this week after a lengthy court battle, they married each other in the center of City Hall's marbled atrium. Each held a bundle of white roses.
After they exchanged rings, Warren said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Tom and George have committed their lives together as husbands in the state of California."
Then: "Tom and George, you're married."
Afterward, the couple celebrated with miniature cupcakes. They didn't think marriage would change their relationship at all, but they felt a rush of emotion.
"It will probably hit us later," Lucas said.
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