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Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper met in 1989 through a mutual friend and within a year were living together and raising Rizzo’s 8-year-old son.
In 2004, they phoned the clerk’s office at City Hall to make an appointment to be married and were told to come the afternoon of Thursday, March 11.
They had 50 friends and family members with them — and cake and a large, catered spread waiting back at the house. They had booked a weekend away in Mendocino.
But when they entered the clerk’s office to obtain their license, a teary-eyed staff member hung a sign saying that the state Supreme Court had put a stop to the weddings and that no more licenses would be granted.
They had missed the right to wed by 10 minutes.
Rizzo broke down in tears, and a photograph of her sobbing appeared in newspapers nationwide. Their son, Christopher, was a young man by that point and told reporters, “I could get married to some girl I just met in Las Vegas, and these women who raised me can’t?”
That night, instead of leaving for their honeymoon, the women agreed to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state. They eventually won their case and were legally married in 2008 — before the passage of Proposition 8 that November that again shut down same-sex marriage in California.
Prior to retiring in 2019, Jeanne Rizzo was President and Chief Executive Officer for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners from 2001 to 2019 and Co-Chair of the Federal Advisory Committee for the Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee from 2010 to 2013. She served on and was Chair of the California Breast Cancer Research Program Council from 2008 to 2011. Rizzo was Owner of JR Productions and Great American Music Hall from 1972 to 2001. Rizzo is a member of the Seventh Generation Social Mission Board.
In February of 2022, CA Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Jeanne to be the Chair of the California Environmental Safety Board.
Pali Cooper is a doctor of chiropractic, an active release techniques soft tissue specialist and teacher and is an honors graduate of Life Chiropractic West and is an instructor with ART and teaches in the US, Canada and Europe and teaches anatomy classes for Yoga teachers.
Her volunteer work ranges from treating world-class athletes at the Ironman Triathlon in Kona to breast cancer survivors climbing Alaska’s Mt. McKinley. She herself has climbed to the summit of Mount Shasta twice as part of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds team, and has participated in countless charitable hikes and bike rides.
Both Jeanne and Pali and are excited for their son Christopher to earn his PHD later this year.
On March 11, 2004, Jeanne Rizzo and her partner Pali Cooper were one of a handful of couples who were turned away by county clerks in March 2004 minutes after the California Supreme Court orderedsame-sex marriages halted. Photo by: Irene Young
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