Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Gets A Supreme Court Win; SF Celebrates
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that backers of Proposition 8, California’s ban of same-sex marriage, had no right to appeal a federal court ruling that overturned it. As a result, same-sex marriage can resume in California and Gov. Jerry Brown quickly issued a directive to state and county clerks saying so.
“Proposition 8 is dead, it’s dead all across California,” proclaimed noted attorney David Boies, one part of the legal team that argued against Prop. 8 before the high court.
It appeared same-sex marriage licenses would again be issued in California come late July. Supreme Court rulings normally take effect after 25 days and Brown’s executive order, a copy of which was sent to CBS San Francisco, followed that timetable.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris had hoped for a sooner resumption, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco – which has the authority to put the ruling into place before the 25 days are up – declined her request to do it.
Counties across the state said they were preparing for an influx of couples wanting to tie the knot as soon as they were able. San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said said she expected thousands of same-sex couples to wed in San Francisco County alone in the coming months, while the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder’s Office outlined plans to have 27 service windows ready to process marriage license applications at the county government center in San Jose.
The morning news of the high court decision drew loud cheers from a crowd of hundreds gathered at San Francisco City Hall. A small morning crowd also gathered to celebrate in the city’s Castro District, where a more formal celebration was set for 6:30 p.m. at Castro and Market streets. Plans for the evening event called for two stages for music and speeches.
RELATED CONTENT: List Of Bay Area Events On Decision Day
Castro District residents Frank Reyes, 54, and his partner Paul Brady, 47, held hands as the decision was announced on TV and described the experience as “surreal.” Moments later, an ecstatic Reyes proposed and Brady accepted. “It’s just nice to be on this side of things,” Brady said.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee addressed the City Hall crowd, calling it an “historic, historic day for all of us… it feels good to have love triumph over ignorance.”
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision left in place a 2010 ruling in which U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco declared the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional because it violated the federal constitutional rights to equal treatment and due process.
Prop. 8 opponents had made the technical argument before the high court that the proponents did not have legal standing to bring their case. Gov. Brown and Attorney General Harris did not appeal the lower court ruling striking down Prop. 8; it was activists who backed the law.
The Supreme Court determined they did not have standing to come in and defend it.
“We hold today that we lack jurisdiction to consider it in the particular context of Hollingsworth v. Perry,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.
RELATED CONTENT: Download The High Court Ruling (.pdf)
In fact, Roberts noted that the high court has never granted standing to “a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to do so.”
The four dissenting justices – Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor – said the court should have decided the constitutional question that was before it.
The couples who filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in San Francisco in 2009 that ultimately resulted in the Supreme Court decision were Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank.
“We thank the justices for letting us get married in California, but that’s not enough. It’s gotta go nationwide and we can’t wait for that day,” Stier said while standing on the marble steps outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
PHOTO GALLERY: Reaction Photos From SF City Hall & Supreme Court Steps
Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the Prop. 8 supporters, said the coalition of religious conservative groups he represents would try to fight to keep the lower court decision from applying to more than the two couples who were the original plaintiffs in the long-running case. State officials dismissed the notion.
“We will continue to defend Prop. 8 and seek its enforcement,” Pugno said in an e-mailed statement to CBS San Francisco.
About 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California before the Prop. 8 ban was enacted by voters in November 2008. Gay marriage in the state began in 2004 when former San Francisco mayor (and now California Lt. Gov.) Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“What a day, a special day,” exclaimed Newsom as he spoke Wednesday morning in the City Hall Rotunda. Standing nearby was Phyllis Lyon, one half of the first lesbian couple Newsom wed in the city.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera noted how some people had criticized Newsom at the time, saying San Francisco was moving too fast in granting marriage licenses. But Herrera observed that sometimes the only way to get things done is to “kick down the door.”
In another related decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)