City Hall Crowd Reacts to Rulings

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote today that the sponsors of Proposition 8 had no standing, or legal authority, to appeal a trial court ruling that struck down the statewide ban on same-sex marriage.

The decision has the effect of reinstating a 2010 ruling in which U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the ban violated the federal constitutional rights to equal treatment and due process.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris had refused to appeal Walker's ruling, and the high court said today that proponents of a voter initiative don't have the right to defend it on appeal if state officials decline to do so.

In another decision today, the 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.

Hundreds of people gathered inside San Francisco City Hall this morning in anticipation of today's rulings.

The DOMA ruling was announced first, eliciting loud cheers. When the Proposition 8 ruling was released, there was initial confusion about what it meant, but the confusion quickly turned to jubilation when it became clear that same-sex marriages will likely resume in California.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee addressed the crowd, calling today a "historic, historic day for all of us." "It's been a long road ... but gosh, it feels good to have love triumph over ignorance," Lee said.

Lee and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom walked down the steps under the City Hall Rotunda with Phyllis Lyon, one half of the first lesbian couple to wed in San Francisco when same-sex marriage was briefly legal in 2008.

Her spouse, Del Martin, died later that year.

"What a day, a special day," said Newsom, who started it all by unexpectedly allowing same-sex weddings in the city shortly after he became mayor in 2004.

Newsom said it is the leadership of same-sex rights pioneers like Lyon and Martin that led to today's events.

"It's people like Phyllis and Del that stepped up and stepped in half a century ago to these debates ... They didn't wait for someone to tap them on the shoulder, they didn't wait to ask for permission," Newsom said.

He pointed out that the story is not yet finished.

"Like any journey it's not linear -- it's messy, it's complex. There are good days and bad days, but it's a worthy journey that we're on," Newsom said.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has said that in the event that the Supreme Court ruled on the standing issue, he expected same-sex weddings in the California to resume by late July.

That timing includes 25 days in which Proposition 8 sponsors could ask the court for a rehearing, plus several days for a federal appeals court to issue a mandate dismissing the appeal.

But there could be further litigation about the scope of the trial court ruling striking down Proposition 8.

Herrera and lawyers for two couples who challenged Proposition 8 say the injunction issued by Walker requires California officials to license and register same-sex marriages statewide.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 have said in court filings, however, that they think Walker's injunction would apply only to the two individual couples who challenged Proposition 8.

The couples, who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in San Francisco in 2009, are Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank.

 

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