desperate measures

The Lesbian Drug Felon Who Got Married In a California Jail to Beat Prop 8’s Cutoff

As if we don’t talk about marriage enough on this website, we’re on overload now with the Perry trial in San Francisco. But it’s not too late to remember what’s at stake: Marriage equality for gay Americans. Even the imprisoned felon types.

Meet Dawn Davis II, 25. She married her wife Shayonna on Aug. 19, 2008. On their wedding day, Shayonna looked beautiful, Dawn recalls: “Her hair was in this little cute bun with a ponytail. She had braids and little spikes coming out of the bun. She was wearing a silver skirt with a champagne-colored shirt and orange shoes.” Dawn, meanwhile, wore an orange jumpsuit. And they didn’t even get to kiss after they were pronounced wife and wife. That’s because Dawn was serving a year-long prison sentence for possession and intent to sell crack in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and they got married in jail.

I first met Shayonna in front of my house in April 2008. I saw a pretty dark-skinned purple- and black-haired girl sitting in a car right by the house with another girl I knew from the neighborhood who worked as a prostitute. I thought this girl did the same thing, but I still wanted to meet her.

Later, I found out that she worked as a certified nurse assistant. She wasn’t involved in the street life.

At this time I was making fast money selling large quantities of dope (crack). I was also doing powder (cocaine). My grandmother had suspected I was gay and kicked me out, so I was paying my rent and making my money through dope. I couldn’t get a regular job because I was a felon, so I just gave up. (I got the felony in 2004 for selling crack.)

Soon after I met Shayonna, I realized that I was in love, and I stopped smoking weed and doing powder.

Why the rush to wed? Because Dawn believed the window of legalized gay marriage in California would run out before she was released. And she was right. Dawn proposed to Shayonna soon after landing in jail, telling her: “Now is a good time for us to get married, because we might not be able to get married when I get out of jail because same-sex marriage might not be allowed in California anymore.”

But now she’s out of jail. And things are on the up and up.

I have been married now for a year and 4 months and my life has changed a lot. Since getting out of jail I have not gone back to the street, and because I love my life today I haven’t touched powder.

My family thinks that Shayonna just controls me or something. But I think they just can’t accept the fact that I married a woman. But I will always love my family because they are my family.

My wife has showed me the right way to live and I love it. We have our ups and downs but I know we are going to be together for a long time because we still talk every night as if we’d just met. I know I am part of the small exclusive group of people in California who have been able to marry someone of the same sex. Sometimes when my wife and I fight, I tell myself I need to stay and work it out, because I can’t get married to another woman. It makes me feel even more committed.

And when she kisses me, my heart still drops.