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Judge grants legal recognition to Sebastopol women's marriage after legal battle

  • Stacy Schuett, Clare, Ian and Lesly Taboada-Hall shown in a family photo. (COURTESY PHOTO)

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.

Schuett-Hall Marriage Upheld

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“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 mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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