ADAPT had come to San Francisco, CA following the American Health Care Association (AHCA) on their convention schedule. They were staying at The Marriott Hotel in Downtown San Francisco. We had marched there the evening of our arrival to give them a warm reception and demanded that they meet with ADAPT and support our cause. We wanted to speak at their convention, telling them that Nursing Homes had to go. We were also chasing after Louis Sullivan, then Secretary of Health and Human Services under the administration of George HW Bush, to redirect money from nursing homes to Community Attendant Services.
They weren’t the only targets that year. 1992 was an election year. Bill Clinton and George HW Bush were running for President of the United States. With the election a mere two weeks or so away, we were trying to get both candidates to commit to working towards redirecting funds to Attendant Services. Both the Democratic and Republican headquarters were targets that week.
I was in the group outside of Republican Headquarters, which of course would not let us in. We surrounded the place, chanting and blocking the entrance to the building. People from a nearby bakery, which baked San Francisco’s signature Sour Dough Bread, not only showed their support by cheering for us but also brought us loaves of warm bread for lunch!
Not too far away, another group of ADAPTers were inside the Democratic Headquarters being served non-committal double speak and cake. Meanwhile, while fêting the ADAPTers inside, one member of the Democratic Party had scrawled HELP US-CALL THE POLICE on a sign and hung it in the window. After getting nowhere with the lip service from the Democrats, ADAPT Chanted, “Cut the cake-cut the crap! Now it’s time to face ADAPT!” I can no longer recall if we really got anything of substance that day from either party.
The following day had us paying a visit to Health and Human Services headquarters trying to get the ever-elusive Secretary Sullivan to speak with us and commit to meeting with us over the issue of redirection. It was a long siege outside of the building. The answer always seemed to be “No” and people were arrested. The police were very rough.
The last day of the Fall Action took place outside of the Marriott where AHCA was staying. We had blocked entrances and made a gauntlet for some of the conventioneers. It became evident that they would not meet with us that day and had asked the police to remove us from their sight. The San Francisco police, who had a reputation for being rough, lived up to their reputation, overturning wheelchairs and dragging folks.
I had decided that day to be arrested. I was sitting in the middle of the street and a particularly nasty officer grabbed me, dragged me up and arrested me. We were taken to a pier alongside the Bay, not far from a toppled highway overpass that had fallen during an earthquake. It looked surreal. I had the honor of being arrested with J. Quinn Brisben, the Socialist Candidate for President that year.
Now, this was the day that Erik and I had decided that we would marry each other at the end of the Action. Somehow, the word had spread to the police that Erik was getting married and one officer had asked him if he was going to be out of jail in time for the wedding.
“I hope to,” he said with a smile. Since I was in this makeshift jail with him, I joked we could have a chaplain come in and marry us. Luckily, we were out of jail in plenty of time.
A few months before the Action, we had asked Wade Blank if he would perform our wedding for us in San Francisco. We had decided on San Francisco since it was the Gay version of Mecca to all Les/Gay People. He had said, “Yes” and we were excited to be married among our community of activists.
Barbara Toomer had seen me earlier and had given me a lovely corsage of yellow roses and white baby’s breath for the wedding. She had to fly home to Utah and I was very touched.
Deciding I was not thrilled with what I brought to wear for the wedding, my best friend Su Ream from Philly and I had concocted a quick plan and fashioned a Wedding Dress (a Grecian Toga Style) out of a bed sheet, complete with veil and an ADAPT headband. Fussing and making sure that the single safety pin that we had was going to hold the dress together, we got ready and waited at the top of the Mezzanine in the Ballroom of the Ramada.
As Disability and Feminist Singer Songwriter Elaine Kolb played a song she had written for the occasion, based on the pun of gender confusion and Queer love, I descended to the shocked and gentle laughter of our people. Wade married Erik and I and along with the assistance of Cassie James, who did an old Irish Handfasting Ceremony, we were wed!
It was such a wonderful wedding to celebrate our love with our friends! Thanks to ADAPT, we had three wedding cakes and enjoyed the night, receiving congratulations from our Community!
Sadly, this was the last wedding Wade would ever perform and the last time Erik and I would see him. Still, our love endures even after 16 years of marriage, this upcoming October 21st.