Gay couples begin marrying across California

SAN FRANCISCO — Same-sex marriages began in California on Friday after a federal appeals court lifted a hold on a 2010 injunction.

The first wedding in San Francisco began at 4:45 p.m. At 4:10 p.m., a cheer went up in the San Francisco City Hall rotunda. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, one of the two same-sex couples who sued, made their way from the city clerk’s office where they got their marriage license to the marble steps of City Hall, stopping for photographs.

Attorneys said they had no advance word that the 9thCircuit was going to lift the hold on the Proposition 8 ruling.

Speaking during a telephone press conference, Sandy Stier introduced “my beautiful wife” Kris Perry to reporters. They had married earlier at a ceremony in San Francisco City Hall.


“First we went to work, and then we got married,” Stier said. “Today was fantastic day.”

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were married by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Ted Boutrous, one of the lawyers in the federal lawsuit, confirmed that ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of the Proposition 8, still can ask for a rehearing within the 25-day waiting period. Even though the Supreme Court decision is not technically final, the 9th Circuit was free to lift the hold on the injunction, he said.

He said he has seen federal appeals courts take similar actions in other cases before a Supreme Court decision was technically final.

“It was a great move by the 9th Circuit and totally authorized by the courts rules and the federal rules,” Boutrous said.

Boutrous insisted that the Supreme Court could not issue another stay to stop the marriages and said the legal team was not worried that ProtectMarriage would persuade a state judge or a federal judge to narrow the scope of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s order.

“The federal injunction trumps anything anyone can do it state court,” Boutrous said. “I think it would be frivolous…. They should hang it up and quit trying to stop people from getting married.”

In a surprise action, a federal appeals court cleared the way, bypassing a normal waiting period and lifting a hold on a trial judge’s order that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

The news came in a single, legalistic sentence Friday afternoon from the appeals court.

“The stay in the above matter is dissolved immediately,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Gov. Jerry Brown told county clerks that they could begin marrying same-sex couples immediately, launching plans for ceremonies up and down the state. The same-sex couples who filed the federal lawsuit headed to city halls in Los Angeles and San Francisco to tie the knot, ending their long fight to become legal spouses.

“It couldn’t come a moment too soon,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sparked the legal effort for gay marriage in California when he was San Francisco mayor.

“What extraordinary timing, right before [gay] pride weekend,” Newsom said. “All that time, all the struggle and the moment has arrived.”

Supporters of Proposition 8 were furious that the 9th Circuit acted before the normal waiting period. ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of the ballot measure, have 25 days from the ruling to ask for reconsideration.

“It is part and parcel of the utter lawlessness in which this whole case has been prosecuted, said Chapman law professor John Eastman, a supporter of Proposition 8. “Normally courts let the parties kind of pursue their legal remedies before they issue a mandate.”

He said that the 25-day period for asking the Supreme Court to reconsider still applied and that a rehearing, though extremely unlikely, remained a technical possibility.

“Tonight it is chaos and lawlessness, and anyone who is concerned about the rule of law ought to be deeply troubled by what happened here,” the constitutional law professor said.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage, expressed astonishment and dismay.

“I am not sure what we do at this moment,” he said. “It is 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. I am not sure what can be done at this point. This is beyond belief. I don’t think anybody expected this. The Supreme Court decision is not even final, and yet the 9th Circuit is rushing forward.”

A spokesman for the 9th Circuit had told reporters Wednesday that it normally took “at least” 25 days to act.

UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, however, said that he knows of no instance in which the Supreme Court has granted a rehearing after delivering a full-blown ruling and that he thought the 9th Circuit’s action was legally appropriate.

“I was surprised,” Chemerinsky said. “They usually wait for the 25 days, and it just doesn’t become an issue. But there is no way the Supreme Court is going to consider this.”

He said the 9th Circuit undoubtedly realized that the decision was final and decided to end the waiting for same-sex couples. He noted that Walker’s order has been on hold three years.

Some clerks’ offices extended their hours so couples could marry. Cathy Darling Allen, the clerk for Shasta County and the head of the California Assn. of Clerks and Election Officials, announced: “We are all a go. It’s starting to happen.”

She asked her fellow county clerks to notify her if they planned to stay open through the weekend.

When asked whether she expected any counties might not comply with the new law, she said, “Not as far as issuing licenses, no, I have no reason to believe we’d have an issue with that.”

Gay-rights activists said they were thrilled with the quick legal action.

“We are ecstatic that same-sex couples can affirm their love and commitment for one another yet again in California by getting married,” said John O’Connor executive director of Equality California. “Today, on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the freedom to marry is restored in California, and it’s here to stay!”

Jim Key, spokesman for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, said he was elated but shocked by the news.

“This is the way it should be,” he said. “We have been waiting for more than 4 1/2 years now for marriage equality, and nobody should have to wait a day longer than necessary.”

“It was a bit anticlimactic having to wait at least 25 more days after the ruling.”

Key said that ever since the court of appeals ruled on Proposition 8, people have called from all over Los Angeles, offering to donate champagne and wedding cakes to help the center host community weddings in its courtyard.

He’s been waiting for nearly three years to take them up on the offers.

But when the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that same-sex marriages could continue, Key began to plan for a celebration still 25 days away.

“We never expected the court to move this quickly,” he said.


The timing couldn’t be better for Abby Maurer’s parents, who were visiting California from Guatemala for her brother’s wedding.

When they heard about the Supreme Court decision, they hoped to witness Maurer’s wedding to her partner of six years, Kim Kearsing, as well. But they doubted the 9th Circuit would lift the stay so fast.

Then they saw the news on Friday, and Maurer, 30, quickly picked up the phone. “I called my parents and said, ‘FYI, we might be getting married in an hour.’ ”

They all assembled at the Sacramento County clerk’s office, which was staying open until 7 p.m., two hours late. Someone picked up a small cake from a favorite bakery. Maurer was wearing jeans for casual Friday at her office, where she works as a lawyer.

The clerk’s office was a bustle of activity as couples, waiting years for the court case to conclude, headed to finalize their vows. More and more couples arrived to get married on Friday night, some clutching hastily assembled bouquets of flowers. Staff members raced around the office to process paperwork as fast as possible.

“I’m just elated,” said Kearsing, 43. “For me, this is less about our wedding and more about the historical significance.”

Maurer was also thrilled: “Finally! What has taken so long?”;;

Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Chris Megerian, Christine Mai-Duc and David Zahniser contributed to this report.