The marriage vows exchanged three months ago by two Sebastopol women were validated Wednesday with a few quick words uttered from the bench by a Sonoma County probate judge preparing to move onto other scheduled matters.
It was quick, procedural and almost anti-climactic after Judge Nancy Case Shaffer issued a tentative ruling Tuesday stating she intended to grant legal recognition to the marriage of Stacey Schuett and her late wife, Lesly Taboada-Hall.
But for Schuett and her family, daughter Clare, 17, and son Ian, 14, the ruling has a powerful impact, validating the 27 years the two women spent together building a family and ensuring the effort made by Taboada-Hall to provide for them comes to fruition in the wake of her death.
"I'm just speechless," Schuett, 52, said afterward in the court clerk's office, where she signed the forms to secure a certificate of marriage from the state.
Schuett and Taboada-Hall, 56, were married June 19 in a hastily planned ceremony they had hoped to put off until an anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court restoring the right of same-sex couples to wed in California.
But Taboada-Hall, her body ravaged by cancer, was deteriorating too quickly to hold off any longer, and the women went forward with a wedding in their home though they'd been denied a marriage license.
Taboada-Hall died the next day, six days before the high court struck down the California initiative that had prevented them from obtaining the license and opening the doors to same-sex weddings.
Schuett, not legally a surviving "spouse," would have had to forego the pension and Social Security survivor's benefits to which both women had thought she would be entitled as Taboada-Hall's registered domestic partner.
But their attorneys, Tate Birnie and Kinna Crocker, ultimately argued successfully that the couple had done everything possible to be legally married — including applying for a marriage license and being wed by a properly authorized public official.
It was only an unconstitutional law struck down six days too late that got in their way.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.