Gay marriage legal in California, court declares
By Crystal Carreon and Bill Lindelof - firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated 10:10 am PDT Thursday, May 15, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO - A deeply divided California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in an opinion issued Thursday morning.
Wild cheers echoed throughout City Hall and other spots where proponents had gathered Thursday morning awaiting the opinion, which came on a 4-3 vote.
The case stems from challenges to state law by gay couples who were married in ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall in 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Legal challenges to those marriages eventually led to the high court invalidating them six months later. California voters already had approved by a wide margin a measure in 2000 that declared marriage to be only between a man and a woman.
But San Francisco officials and about 20 of the couples granted licenses four years ago
challenged the court decisions that invalidated their marriages, and in March the seven justices heard three hours of arguments over whether the state's ban on gay marriage denies gays and lesbians their constitutional rights.
Thursday's opinion has been eagerly anticipated by both sides in the argument, with many saying a decision in California would be felt nationwide. Only Massachusetts allows gay marriage.
Opponents of same-sex marriage already have readied a new ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to ban such unions.
By midmorning Thursday, same-sex couples hoping for a favorable ruling began to line up outside the San Francisco city clerk's office.
Standing at the head of the line, San Francisco couple Bruce Ivie and David Bowers said they were waiting for history.
"I just feel it," said Ivie, 51 wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a pink triangle and "Proud Forever" on it. "California has always been a trendsetter. It's now about time."
Ivie and Bowers, together for 28 years, were among the thousands of gay couples who rushed to City Hall to be married in 2004.
They said they were horrified and heartbroken when their marriage was later voided, and spent the next four years following the gay marriage case as it made its way through the courts.
"We'll have each other forever, but we deserve the same rights as everybody else," Bowers said. "How can it hurt anyone else?"
A line slowly began to snake around the vinyl ropes outside the clerk's office.
Outside the court building Thursday, gay and lesbian proponents gathered, with many saying they were extremely anxious as they awaited the opinion.
Among the group were two Davis women, Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, who said they have been together for 34 years and were the 45th couple married at City Hall in 2004.
Pontac carried a sign that said "Life feels different when you are married."
"We are full of hope," Bailes said. "This is extremely important. We have been fighting this fight for a really long time."
The women, who will speak tonight at a Sacramento gathering in midtown, drove to San Francisco to be at the courthouse for the decision.
"Shelly said this morning that she wouldn't be this nervous when we get married," Pontac said. "We've been together for 34 years. It has been a long-enough engagement."
This is a huge step in the direction of justice and love. There is so much rhetoric about family values and supporting the family, and yet we have laws forbidding some to form healthy, happy, supportive families. Gay Marriage is a family value, and I'm glad the California Supreme Court thinks so, too.