SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP/BCN) — California was a trailblazer the last time it opened the door to same-sex marriages five years ago.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for them to resume, businesses and communities that see themselves as wedding destinations are playing catch-up up with a dozen other states and the District of Columbia.
Couples, meanwhile, are making wedding plans against a political and social landscape that looks much different from the one that existed in 2008, when an estimated 18,000 couples hurried to tie the knot before Proposition 8’s passage and spent months not knowing if their unions would be invalidated.
“Today is the first day of an entirely new reality for same-sex couples and for LGBT people in this state,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell, who got married during the brief window that year. “No one else in the history of this nation faced the sort of uncertainty, the stutter step of forward progress and backward sliding to the extent the LGBT community has, and now, at least in California, we are done.”
Opponents of same-sex marriage have said they are exploring various legal options for making one last-ditch effort to stop it. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 opinion legalized gay marriage in California on a technicality, holding that the sponsors of the voter-backed amendment lacked authority to represent the state after Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to defend the measure in court.
Lawyers for the ban’s backers still have 24 days to ask the Supreme Court to rehear their case. Most legal analysts think Proposition 8 supporters have slim-to-zero chance of preventing same-sex marriages from resuming, which would happen once the Supreme Court’s ruling becomes official and frees the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove the hold it placed on such weddings while the ban’s constitutionality was being debated.
On Thursday, county clerks offices across the state were getting ready for the anticipated flurry of same-sex marriage license applications once the high court’s ruling becomes final and the hold is lifted.
In the Bay Area, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said she expects thousands of same-sex couples to wed in San Francisco in the coming months, while Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joseph Canciamilla said employees in his office were bracing to handle the “pent-up demand.”
Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin said she was “looking forward to issuing marriage licenses and conducting marriage ceremonies for our same-sex couples as soon as possible” and would post updates on marriage plans in the county to their website, sccoclerk.com.
In Santa Clara County, the clerk-recorder’s office said it planned to have 27 service windows ready to process marriage license applications at the county government center in San Jose.
The office has deputized employees to perform weddings and will call on community volunteers for backup if there is high demand.
In anticipation of a high volume of marriages, two wedding chapel facilities are being added to complement the existing chapel, which will allow for up to 17 ceremonies per day at each of the three.
The Williams Institute, a think-tank based at UCLA that estimated the number of couples who wed in 2008, is predicting that 37,000 of the 100,000 same-sex couples now living together in California will get married over the next three years, creating $492 million in new business from wedding spending and tourism dollars from out-of-state guests and another $46 million in tax and fee revenue for the state.
Brad Sears, the institute’s executive director, said the assumptions on which he derived those estimates, which came from the early experience of Massachusetts, may be conservative. Not only is California known as “a destination wedding state in its own right,” but gay Californians making wedding plans now have the luxury of time and a sense of security that did not exist five years ago, which could persuade couples to spend more on their celebrations, Sears said.
“There is no dark cloud hanging over their marriages” he said. “They have stability of knowing marriage is here and marriage is here to stay in a way it wasn’t in 2008.”
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