Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 17 / 24 April 2014
 
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Online extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Prominent married couplesplits up

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Davina Kotulski, left, and Molly McKay in happier times at a marriage equality rally in 2009. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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One of the most prominent couples in California's same-sex marriage movement is divorcing.

Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski have separated after 15 years together.

"I don't want to go into great detail about what happened, but I'll just say that Davina informed me she was going to end our marriage" about three weeks ago, said McKay.

McKay, the media director for Marriage Equality USA, which has chapters in California and elsewhere around the country, said the breakup is "the worst thing that's ever happened to me." She appeared to break down in tears frequently during a phone interview.

Asked whether there was another person involved, she said, "I don't really want to say." She said she hadn't seen the breakup coming. Kotulski didn't respond to interview requests.

The couple were married once in September 1998, then again in February 2004 during San Francisco's "Winter of Love," and a third time in September 2008, during the brief period when the marriages were legal in California. They have no children.

McKay, an attorney, and Kotulksi, an author of pro-same-sex marriage books and a psychologist, were regulars at rallies and other events during the past decade, with McKay frequently wearing her wedding dress. They were frequently the public face of same-sex marriage in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the state.

McKay and Kotulski were especially prominent in the campaign against Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban that California voters passed in November 2008. A federal judge eventually ruled the measure unconstitutional, but its backers have appealed that decision.

"I always pictured us being together forever. I pictured us being like Phyllis and Del, and watching our GLBT community grow and prosper," said McKay, referring to Phylis Lyon and the late Del Martin. The pioneering lesbian couple were together for more than 50 years and were the first couple then-Mayor Gavin Newsom married after he ordered such unions be allowed in the city in February 2004. Those marriages were eventually invalidated, but in May 2008, the start Supreme Court ruled they should again be permitted and about 18,000 same-sex couples married from June to early November of that year, before the passage of Prop 8.

Newsom oversaw Lyon and Martin's union again in June 2008. Martin died just over two months later at the age of 87.

Besides the pioneers in her life, McKay said she was also mindful of the young people her and Kotulski's relationship had touched.

"I think of all the queer kids who've told us they've cut out pictures of us from newspapers and magazines and put us on their wall," she said. "I love that we were able to give them a picture of true love and pride in our love and help them see their future and see the expectation that they deserve to be married, and showing parents of gay kids they can dance at their kids' weddings."

Initially, McKay said she'd been "semi-suicidal" at Kotulski's news, and had thought of putting on her wedding dress and jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, she said she realized, "That would be the suckiest 'It Gets Better' video in the world, and that I had a responsibility to show you could get through really hard times. You can live through them and hopefully come out somewhere on the other side."

McKay and Kotulski aren't the first high-profile same-sex couple in California to split.

In 2006, Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung, who were part of the historic marriage equality lawsuit Woo v. California, separated after 18 years together. The case was eventually renamed Tyler v. California.

McKay said she would continue to be involved with Marriage Equality USA, although she doesn't know whether she'll remain media director. She said that Kotulski resigned from the group's advisory board, at her request, "mainly just because we need to separate our lives," she said.

She said she doesn't think divorce procedures are any different for her and Kotulski than they would be for a straight couple, but they're retaining attorneys to help them sort through the process.

They're "both committed to treating each other fairly," McKay, who lives in Oakland, said.

"The thing is, I still love Davina, and I'd take her back now," said McKay, who added that she's sharing what happened in part because "I know we're not the only ones who've gone through this. ... Gay people are no better and no worse than straight people. We go through the same stuff."

She still considers herself a "love warrior," a name she has, over the years, bestowed on herself and others in the marriage equality battle.

"It's like I got my leg shot off, but I'm still going to keep fighting. I'm still going to keep working for what we started," said McKay, who didn't know whether she would still appear at rallies in her wedding dress. She said it was "cute" when she was 25, but she's now approaching 40.

"I'll be running the marriage pavilion at San Francisco Pride, but I don't know what the hell I'll be wearing," she said.

McKay said before her relationship with Kotulski, she'd dated men and women, and some of the women she dated are now men, so "I guess I'm technically bisexual."

Gay man, ex-wife inspire Happily Divorced TV show

For at least one divorced couple, it is possible to be happy together.

That's the case of TV star Fran Drescher and her gay ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson. The two are co-writing the new sitcom Happily Divorced.

Drescher previously appeared in the sitcom The Nanny, which the couple also worked on together.

The new show follows Los Angeles florist Fran (played by Drescher) whose 18-year marriage ends suddenly when her husband Peter (played by John Michael) announces he's gay. And because he can't afford to move out, they continue living together.

"This show is very supportive of our community, and the straight community," Jacobson, 53, said. "It's a great melding of both, and if you enjoy comedies and like to laugh, I think this show is worth giving a chance."

Jacobson said his relationship with Drescher inspired the show, but unlike the TV character, he didn't come out until after the divorce. He lives in Los Angeles and is single, and said he and his ex-wife have "a great relationship."

"We truly are soul mates," he said. They vacation together and even fix each other up on dates, he said.

The couple was part of the effort to defeat Prop 8. They once threw a party that raised $40,000 for Equality California.

Happily Divorced premieres at 10:30 p.m. June 15 on TV Land.

 

EQCA town hall in San Jose

At 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, June 7) Equality California will hold a town hall meeting at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose to discuss whether or not a measure to overturn Prop 8 should be placed on the ballot in 2012.

The statewide lobbying group has been holding similar meetings throughout the state.

The DeFrank Center is located at 938 The Alameda. For more information, visit the Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=161219133938245.

Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.






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