Married California couple hosts National Engagement Party to support ballot campaigns

In June of 2008, during the five-month period in which same-sex couples could legally marry in California, before Proposition 8 took that freedom away, Robert Rohr and Andy Goldfarb stood in the chamber of City Hall in San Francisco, some friends and family members by their side. They looked at each other, exchanged vows, promised their love and commitment to each other forever, and signed paperwork ensuring that the state would legally respect their relationship.  

The wedding ceremony came six years after Robert and Andy held a commitment ceremony, which they shared with over 150 friends and family members in 2002. The wedding, Robert said, filled in a hole for his relationship in a way that the commitment ceremony couldn't.

"We felt like we had a relationship, and we felt like we had a commitment to each other," Robert said. "But having the ability to marry legally was what was missing. It's one thing to have your family members and friends know you're a couple - but it's something else when you can marry legally and your state recognizes that you're a couple."  

Robert and Andy know that no couple should be denied that same feeling of security, or the same opportunity to publicly express their decision to join together in marriage. That's why they answered Freedom to Marry's call to action by hosting a house party as part of our National Engagement Party. The National Engagement Party, which will be celebrated across the country tomorrow, October 13, is our network of house parties and anchor events that will come together to raise money to support the state ballot campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, where the freedom to marry will be put to a vote on Election Day.

Robert and Andy have invited dozens of their friends and family members to their home in San Francisco, where they'll join together in celebration of the incredible momentum facing the marriage movement in 2012. With three states potentially winning the freedom to marry at the ballot on November 6, Robert and Andy are excited to see couples in those states experience the kind of happiness they've shared for so many years.

For over 19 years, Robert and Andy have been an integral part of each other's lives. They met in 1993 while caring for a mutual friend who was living with AIDS, and they became good friends over the course of the next six years. In 2000, they decided to be a couple, and they've been committed to each other ever since. The 2002 commitment ceremony, which was largely secular but took place in a Catholic church and included some Jewish wedding traditions, like marrying under the chuppah and breaking a glass together, was their large-scale celebration in front of all of their family members and friends. 

"I had met a lot of Andy's family over the years before then, and he had met a lot of my family, but the ceremony was kind of the first time that both families came together, and that was very exciting for both of us," Robert said. "It was like a validation of our relationship, and our relationship with an extended family and a big group of friends. It was really wonderful."

The 2008 wedding in California marked a transition into a more elevated relationship for Robert and Andy, one that suddenly seemed more valid and more legitimate. But the couple says that living as a married same-sex couple in California - where same-sex couples no longer have the freedom to marry, and where only a lucky few were able to celebrate in the five-month window before Proposition 8 passed - is a complicated situation.

"We're really happy, and we're proud of the fact that we could marry, but there sort of is a disconnect between this license that we have on the wall inside our house and what the reality is for most people in the state. We were in New York last year when the state legalized marriage for same-sex couples, and we had friends who had known us for a long time coming up to us and saying things like, 'Now you guys can get married! It's legal now!,' even though we were already married legally in California in 2008. People asked us, 'Yeah, but it's not really legal, is it?' So although our marriage is 'legal,' there doesn't seem to be as much of a recognition that comes with it. And it's not legal for everyone - not everyone has the option we had."

Robert and Andy are excited to direct their passion and commitment to fairness for all couples into their work with Freedom to Marry's National Engagement Party. 

"If change is going to come, it's going to come through a lot of hard work, determination, and money," Robert said. "For me and a lot of our friends, we think of ourselves as very political and having lots of opinions, but all too often, that doesn't translate to being very active or involved with doing the legwork required to make those changes. This is something that I want to do to show that I'm passionate about this, and to show other people how important this is to my husband and me."

FIND OUT MORE about the National Engagement Party HERE!