Colorful elation and sullen disappointment follow Prop. 8 ruling


Octogenarian Phyllis Lyon and her lifelong partner Del Martin were the first same-sex couple to be married in San Franciso City Hall in February 2004 in a private ceremony that opened the floodgates to thousands more weddings and multiple court battles.

Although Martin died four years later, Lyon was able to witness the landmark federal court ruling Wednesday striking down Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages.

She had three words for U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker: “Bless his heart.”

But Randy Thomasson, an avid Proposition 8 supporter with the Campaign for Children and Families, had very different words for the judge.

In a statement, Thomasson blasted Walker for having “trampled the written Constitution, grossly misused his authority and imposed his own agenda, which the Constitution does not allow.”

Across California, cheers and jeers greeted the decision striking down Proposition 8 as a violation of federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. Walker ruled that the initiative denied marriage to homosexuals for no rational reason and ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban, although he stayed the ruling until Friday.

At San Diego’s Skyline Church, Pastor Jim Garlow said congregations across the nation would fast and pray for the ban to be restored. He and his congregants played a crucial role in collecting the more than 600,000 signatures required to get Proposition 8 on the ballot in 2008.

He called Wednesday’s ruling an affront to Christianity — and the Constitution.

“Apparently the judge did not read the opening words of the Constitution. It says, ‘We the people.’ The state has voted on this twice, and along comes one judge who feels he has the right to disregard that,” Garlow said.

The decision drew whoops in West Hollywood, where colorful balloons floated in restaurants, shopkeepers offered celebratory discounts and same-sex marriage dreams bloomed anew.

Salt Lake City makeup artist Robert Garcia, 26, mused about moving to California and marrying in the future as he watched news of the decision at Fiesta Cantina restaurant in West Hollywood.

“Finally it’s come. … It’s the opening chapter for all other states,” Garcia said. “It’s definitely historic.”

Inside Block Party, “The Gayest Store on Earth,” owner Larry Block yelled out, “ ‘Repeal Prop. 8’ shirts half price — Thank God!” A gigantic rainbow flag with a yellow happy face hung above the inside doorway.

“I’m sorry I grew up in the last generation, when people believed being gay was taboo,” said Block, 50. “I should have been born 20 years later.”

As he rearranged bright green T-shirts, Block added, “I’m still young enough to get married, though.”

Robin Tyler, 68, and Diane Olson, 53, were the first couple to get married in Los Angeles in 2008. They have been together for 17 years and were friends for many years before that.

“This is a big day for us,” Tyler said from their Northridge home. “We have won a very important battle.”

In San Francisco, scores of happy demonstrators gathered at the corner of Market and Castro streets in the heart of gay San Francisco to celebrate and march on City Hall. The intersection was a welter of rainbow flags, American flags and satellite trucks as the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band assembled.

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was expected to sing, and volunteers were busy handing out song sheets, which included the words, “We will Repeal Prop. 8,” sung to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Mary Ross, 52, and Lori Cassels, 53, of Alameda carried a sign showing a photo of them on their wedding day at City Hall in July 2008 — theirs was one of 18,000 legal unions before Prop. 8 took effect — and the couple said they were “thrilled” about Wednesday’s decision. They had celebrated a civil union in Vermont and were married in Massachusetts and San Francisco.

“To me, it’s just a basic human right,” Cassels said. “The opposing arguments were just flawed — that marriage is for people to procreate and rear children.”

By 5:30 p.m., the crowds had swelled to several hundred, snarling the evening commute. On a riser above Castro Street, John Lewis and his partner Stuart Gaffney led the crowd in chanting “Marriage is a Basic Civil Right.”

After turning to his husband and saying “I love you,” Lewis told the crowd, “Let’s tell it to the Supreme Court.”

Amber Weiss, 33 and pregnant, and her wife Sharon Papo, 31, climbed up on a riser above Castro Street with Cantor Jewlia Eisenberg and renewed their vows.

Said Papo: “I promise to be your best friend, to laugh, cry, play and dance with you. I will be open, respectful and faithful to you.”

Weiss promised to “nurture your spiritual growth and support your dreams.”

The crowd shouted “mazel tov.” The cantor responded, “amen, amen.” A voice from the crowd shouted, “amen, awomen.” Responded another, “and all the rest.”

At the front of the San Francisco march was a flatbed truck with singers, marriage-equality dignitaries and a sound system worthy of the biggest disco.

As the procession neared City Hall at 7 p.m. for yet another rally, the marchers sang a Burt Bacharach tune: “What the world needs now is love sweet love. No not just for some but for everyone.”

But some couples expressed trepidation that their joy would be short-lived if the conservative U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case for review.

Tom Carpenter, 62, and Art Andrade, 52, have been together for 18 years and were married in San Francisco in 2008. “I’m ecstatic and very happy,” Andrade said. “But I’m also concerned how long this happiness will last.”

A high court reversal is exactly what Proposition 8 supporters are banking on.

Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which fought to uphold Proposition 8 in Walker’s court, expressed deep disappointment and vowed to appeal.

“We’re obviously disappointed that the judge did not uphold the will of over 7 million Californians who made a decision in a free and fair democratic process,” he said.

Times staff writers Maria LaGanga, Teresa Watanabe, Mitchell Landsberg, Tony Perry, Esmeralda Bermudez and Kate Linthicum contributed to this story.