SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP/BCN) — Over 100 same-sex couples wed at San Francisco City Hall Saturday as clerks continued issuing marriage licenses one day after a federal appeals court cleared the way for the state of California to immediately lift a 4-year freeze.
PHOTO GALLERY: Same-Sex Marriage Resumes In California
Despite new legal efforts Saturday by gay marriage opponents to halt the nuptials, long lines stretched down the lobby of City Hall as city officials decided to hold weekend hours and let couples tie the knot as San Francisco celebrates its annual Pride weekend.
San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said her office had issued 152 licenses and recorded 101 marriages as of Saturday afternoon. City Hall was again scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday to accommodate requests for licenses.
A sign posted on the door of the office where a long line of couples waited to fill out applications listed the price for a license, a ceremony or both above the words “Equality=Priceless.”
“We really wanted to make this happen,” clerk Karen Hong said, adding that the whole office staff and a group of volunteers came into work without having to be asked. “It’s spontaneous, which is great in its own way.”
The timing couldn’t have been better for California National Guard Capt. Michael Potoczniak, 38, and his partner of 10 years, Todd Saunders, 47, of El Cerrito.
Potoczniak, who joined the Guard after the military’s ban on openly gay service was repealed almost two years ago, was scheduled to fly out Sunday night for a month of basic training in Texas.
“I woke up this morning, shook him awake and said, ‘Let’s go,'” said Potoczniak, who chose to get married in his Army uniform. “It’s something that people need to see because everyone is so used to uniforms at military weddings.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that gay marriage opponents backers lacked standing to defend the state’s Proposition 8 ban because California’s governor and attorney general declined to defend it.
Then on Friday afternoon, the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco removed the last obstacle to making same-sex matrimony legal again in California when it removed its hold on a lower court’s 2010 order directing state officials to stop enforcing the ban.
Within hours, same sex couples were seeking marriage licenses. The two couples who sued to overturn Proposition 8 were wed in San Francisco and Los Angeles Friday evening.
Then on Saturday, Prop. 8 backers filed an emergency motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the weddings being performed. Attorneys argued the case isn’t done because they still have 22 days to ask the justices to reconsider their 5-4 decision announced Wednesday.
As the legal wrangling played out, also wed at San Francisco’s City Hall were Scott Kehoe, 34, and his fiance, Aurelien Bricker, 24. After finding out on Facebook that the city was issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the San Francisco couple rushed out to Tiffany’s to buy wedding rings.
“We’re afraid of further legal challenges in the state,” Kehoe acknowleged.
San Francisco, home to both the federal trial court that struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional and the 9th Circuit, has been the epicenter of the state’s gay marriage movement since then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered his administration in February 2004 to issue licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law.
A little more than four years later, the California Supreme Court, which is also based in San Francisco, struck down the state’s one-man, one-woman marriage laws.
City Hall was the scene of many more marriages in the 4 1/2 months before a coalition of religious conservative groups successfully campaigned for the November 2008 passage of Prop. 8, which amended the state constitution to outlaw same sex marriages.
Standing amid the beaming couples on Saturday, John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney of the advocacy group Marriage Equality USA looked like proud fathers. The men have been together 26 years, got married in February 2004, had their union invalidated six months later and then became one of the 18,000 couples estimated to have tied the knot in California before Proposition 8 was enacted.
“I don’t think getting a license means as much to anyone who hasn’t worked so long for it and fought so hard for it,” Gaffney said. “It’s been a very long engagement.”
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