California starts same-sex marriages

June 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom kicked off California's summer of love by officiating the state's first same-sex marriage at one minute after five this evening. Lesbian and gay couples also married in two other Bay Area counties on Monday and the rest will have to wait until Tuesday morning.

There was only one same-sex wedding in San Francisco on Monday, and according to Mayor Newsom, it was a fitting way to kick start same-sex marriages in California.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin emerged from the mayor's office as spouses for life. For a couple who spent their lives fighting for gay rights, it was an emotional day, one that brought tears throughout City Hall.

"When we first got together, we weren't really thinking about getting married, we were just thinking about getting together, but I think it's a wonderful day," said Phyllis.

Phyllis and Del were the first couple to get married four years ago, when San Francisco held same-sex weddings in defiance of state law, but this time it was legal and a defining moment in history.

"Today we can confidently say it's the first day in the state of California that we are providing marriage equally and fairly to everyone, denying no one their right and opportunity to live their lives out loud," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

However, not everyone at City Hall was celebrating. Outside, members of an extreme religious group from Kansas waved large signs in protest. Representatives of more mainstream religious groups also came in opposition, such as a couple with Catholics for the Common Good.

"Being that we're here to uphold marriage as we know it from the Bible, we're not here to ruin somebody's day. We're here to uphold God's law," said Julie Malaspina from Catholics For The Common Good.

Opponents of same-sex marriage were quickly outnumbered. Hundreds of same-sex supporters began to converge at City Hall, turning what began as a demonstration, into a celebration.

"I wasn't here in 2004 so I definitely wanted to be a part of it this year and it's a pretty cool moment, to hear the crowds cheering and not really know what's going on, but still feel the energy of it and all. It's pretty cool," said Jackie Duda, a San Francisco resident.

And the energy is likely to carry on at San Francisco City Hall at least for the next two weeks. The City Clerk's Office set up this satellite office to process the high number of same-sex couples who booked appointments. After filling out these new gender neutral applications, which simply says "Party A" and "Party B," couples will say, "I do," throughout the galleries, just as they did four years ago.

"You're going to see many ceremonies continually going though the building in different levels," said Kenton Owyang, from the San Francisco City Clerk's Office.

The City Clerks Office will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at least for the next two weeks. The Clerks Office says they can handle up to 500 marriages a day.


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