The news spread across California through a flurry of tweets, texts, likes, links and media alerts: Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.
California legalized same-sex marriage two years ago, but supporters here said they were no less elated Friday to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court had extended the right to all Americans. Indeed, the historic news moved many to tears, shouts of joy and spontaneous celebration.
Politicians took to the stage to highlight California’s role in the struggle for marriage equality, while celebrities on social media marked the occasion with viral hashtags such as #LoveWins and #EqualityForAll.
“It's a gay holiday. Or at least it should be,” said 22-year-old David Brookton. The Hollywood Hills photographer hit the street with a rainbow flag after he saw the news on Facebook.
“It just shows that love always beats hate, no matter how long you have to wait,” he said.
Michael Koontz, 34, and Gary Gangi, 31, were traveling from Palm Springs to Los Angeles when the news filled their Twitter feeds. They told their driver to pull over and quickly exited the vehicle.
On the shoulder of the road, with traffic whizzing past, Gangi got on one knee and placed a ring on Koontz’s finger. The couple of six years had long discussed marriage. Now was the time.
“It was a magical moment,” Gangi said.
In San Francisco, where the state’s same-sex marriage movement began more than a decade ago, the ruling came just before the city’s annual Gay Pride weekend. Celebrants converged on City Hall, where, coincidentally, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were attending a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter.
“At long last, marriage equality in the U.S.,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said to thunderous applause. “We started that movement right here when [then-Mayor] Gavin Newsom dared to marry loving same-sex couples right under this dome.”
Tucked behind a U.N. banner sat the bust of former San Francisco County Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected leader in California, who was assassinated in 1978. “Harvey’s bust was looking down, and today the smile is broader,” said his nephew, Stuart Milk.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti choked up at a news conference as he recalled officiating at the marriage of Councilman Mike Bonin and his husband. “Today, the page has turned,” Garcetti said. “Today, love won.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is gay, hoisted a pride flag in front of the city’s Civic Plaza.
“Millions of Americans, including myself and my longtime partner, will finally be treated equally under the law,” Garcia said.
Not all of California welcomed the court’s decision.
At the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, center attorney Dean Broyles denounced the ruling.
“We are no longer a republic governed by law,” Broyles said. “We are now increasingly ruled by the transient feelings of our sexual appetites. We have foolishly bowed and worshipped at the pagan idol of sexual liberty.”
Such sentiments, as well as memories of California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban, had left many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community feeling insecure about the ultimate legal status of such unions.
“We never knew whether it would be taken from us,” said Lorri Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “If the decision went the other way today, we would be vulnerable to having our rights being taken away from us. We can now go to any state and we don’t have to leave our rights behind at the border.”
Jean and her wife married during a brief window in 2008, before California voters passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages until it was overturned in 2013. Jean said she now believes Prop. 8 helped to galvanize the resolve of same-sex marriage supporters, gay and straight, across the nation.
“People were outraged and shocked,” she said, motivating them to fight for marriage equality. “Before, they had been complacent ... People always say, as California goes, so goes the nation. Once you have marriage in such an important state as California, we knew it would help the dominoes fall.”
On Friday morning, Jean and her wife read the text of the Supreme Court’s decision online together.
“Most of my adult life, I never thought I’d see this day,” Jean said.
Some said they thought the ruling would spark more same-sex marriages in California even though such unions were already legal in the state.
Natalie Novoa, 38, awoke Friday to the buzzing of her cellphone. It was a texted alert about the decision. She looked at her girlfriend of 11 years, Eddie Daniels, and said, “Hey, you want to get married today?”
The couple rushed to the Beverly Hills Courthouse, but when they arrived, the clerk said the wedding appointments were completely booked. When they persisted, the clerk told them to try their luck on the second floor.
There, they found a small group of straight couples waiting to get married, and a deputy commissioner willing to squeeze them in for a quick ceremony and a selfie shot of them kissing in front of a faux white cake.
“When things are meant to be, they happen really quickly,” Novoa said. “It was perfect. Here I am with the love of my life, getting married on this beautiful, historic day in this history of the United States. It’s pretty surreal.”
Times staff writers Katie Shepherd, Kate Linthicum, Chris Megerian, Peter Jamison, Tony Perry, Lauren Raab and Monte Morin contributed to this report.