Molly McKay and Devina Kotulski embraced Thursday under the rotunda of the ornate City Hall amid the bedlam that followed the state Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
Cameras snapped. People shouted support. But the couple didn't see, didn't hear.
They searched each other's faces, tears of joy staining McKay's makeup. For so long, they said, they had wanted to say "I do," but had been stymied by those who said, "You can't." Now they could.
"I'm a very happy bride-to-be," McKay sobbed.
San Francisco threw a wedding party Thursday.
As religious and conservative groups across the state vowed to fight same-sex marriages, spirits were high in San Francisco and West Hollywood.
Within moments after the ruling, gay and lesbian couples stood on the courthouse steps and whooped at the sky. They hugged and kissed and shook their fists in jubilation. One man talking on his cellphone announced, "Hey guess what? Gays can get married in California. And that means me." People e-mailed friends, quoting passages from the ruling.
"What a flawless argument," one lawyer wrote in a group e-mail. "Why'd it take so long?"
Lesbian and gay couples began planning wedding ceremonies -- again. Several lined up at the clerk's office within minutes of the decision.
Mary Miller of Sacramento waited her turn there, clutching ticket A074. She and her partner, Judith Franks, were among 4,000 couples married at City Hall in 2004 before the state Supreme Court nullified those marriages.
Now they were back.
"I guess we have to wait 30 days for it to be legal," Franks said, gripping her lover's hand. "Too bad. We're ready now."
In West Hollywood, the decision was cause for breaking out the bubbly -- family-friendly apple cider -- and handing out vanilla cake.
Among the few hundred people who gathered near Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards were elected officials, gay activists and families. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl spoke about how the court's decision allows him to live the life he dreamed of having, even as a child of a large Catholic family with seven other siblings.
"It's gone from the East Coast in Massachusetts to the West Coast in California," Rosendahl said.
Robert Denos, 43, and partner Wil Wilcox, 50, who were married in San Francisco in 2004, dressed up their three small boys -- including a 6-month-old named after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- and brought them out to celebrate.
Thursday's decision, Wilcox said, means more for their kids than for their marriage.
"They'll have the respect of other families," Wilcox said.
"It's an amazing feeling, where I don't feel second-class," said Brian Tuttle, 28, of Van Nuys. "It's proof that, in time, things can work out right."
Tuttle said he and his fiance, Jason Munce, 24, have been waiting for a couple of years to get married.
Earlier in the day, in San Francisco, officials held a City Hall news conference that played out more like a pep rally. As hundreds watched from balconies, scores of gay and lesbian couples gathered on the arching stone stairway that's a popular photo backdrop for newlyweds.
Before them, city officials voiced their elation over the day's events, thunderous applause often drowning out their comments.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Bay Area plaintiffs denied the right to marry, arrived to crazy cheers.
"Kate! Kate! Kate!" the crowd chanted.
When Newsom arrived, the lanky San Francisco mayor who made legalization of same-sex marriage his mission received rock star treatment.
"At the end of the day," Newsom told supporters, "this is about real people and real lives. It's about human dignity. It's about human rights. And it's about time."
"By the way, as California goes, so goes the rest of the nation," he added. "This is the future. And it's now."