Davina S. Kotulski, Ph.D., and Molly B. McKay, J.D., met in a country-and-western bar in 1996. They decided to get married in 1998 before family and friends, setting the date for September of that year. In June 1998, Kotulski, a clinical psychologist, and McKay, an attorney, participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade, fully clad in wedding attire, which they would continue to don in many civil actions to come. They ended up on the front page of the following day’s edition of the San Francisco Examiner and would be featured on news outlets worldwide in the following fourteen years they spent together. Although both had been marriage equality activists since 1996, this feature marked the beginning of the pair’s role as a “poster couple” for the fight for marriage equality in California in the 2000s.
The couple became domestic partners on April 1, 2000, as soon as the California registry began. In 2001, they went to the San Francisco City Hall around Valentine’s Day to request a marriage license. After being denied the next two years, they returned on February 12, 2004, expecting to be turned away once more. However,they were surprised to learn Mayor Gavin Newsom had authorized issuance of marriage licences to same-sex couples earlier that day. The couple became the seventeenth same-sex couple to be married on what came to be known as Freedom to Marry Day. That same year, Kotulski published her first book posing arguments for marriage equality, Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage. These arguments would be used by California marriage equality activists when Newsom’s decision was challenged and lost. However, the San Francisco Superior Court later ruled that the state’s marriage laws were unconstitutional. This began a legal battle of court cases, legislation, and propositions in California. Kotulski and McKay were active field organizers at the time, as well as organizationally involved with Marriage Equality USA and Equality California, respectively.
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, marriage equality opponents introduced a ballot initiative to amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Kotulski and McKay participated in a heated campaign against the California Marriage Protection Act, or Proposition 8. The couple also married for the third time on their tenth anniversary on September 1, 2008, although their marriage was recognized only in California. In November, California voters passed Proposition 8. Three challenges filed the next day with the California Supreme Court. The court upheld the proposition in May 2009, but in February 2012, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it, ruling the proposition unconstitutional. McKay and Kotulski continued their activism, through Marriage Equality USA and other partnerships. After publishing her second book in 2011, Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why it Will Prevail, Kotulski became a nationally known speaker and workshop leader for same-sex marriage rights. McKay continued as Media Director for Marriage Equality USA and also contributed to amicus curiae briefs for marriage equality cases. The pair continued to participate in civil actions for marriage equality, including the right to protections like community property and health care benefits through divorce.
As of March 2013, both Kotulski and McKay continue to be committed to equality for LGBT people and their families globally and continue to advocate for the end of all inequality and injustice against LGBT people and same sex couples.