About 20 supporters of same-sex marriage were detained today during a sit-in at the San Francisco county clerk's office as part of a Valentine's Day protest of the state's same-sex marriage ban.
Eighteen people were detained and released for obstruction shortly after noon, county spokeswoman Susan Fahey said. They were given a record of their removal but do not need to appear in court.
A spokeswoman for Marriage Equality USA, which organized "counter" protests across the country in which same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses, said similar events were also held in San Jose and Martinez.
The only local sit-in, however, was staged at San Francisco City Hall, spokeswoman Molly McKay said.
"We were intentionally sitting down to stand up against an unjust law," said McKay, who was one of the protesters removed from City Hall. This was the 10th time she and her wife, Davina Kotulski, have participated in the protest.
The couple exchanged marriage vows with family and friends in 1998 and married again in 2008 when same-sex marriages in California were briefly legalized.
Today's protesters sang, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love," as sheriff's deputies warned them they needed to move, McKay said.
"It's just an opportunity to raise visibility," she said of the sit-in and marriage license applications. "It's just to show much support there is and how painful (the discrimination) is for everybody."
McKay said there are always tears at the Valentine's Day event, even though same-sex couples know they will be denied marriage licenses.
"It's painful to be told that your beloved can't have the same protections and recognition everyone is entitled to," she said.
City Hall was swarming today with heterosexual couples applying for marriage licenses, many of whom were also saddened by the same-sex couples' situation, McKay said.
"They say, 'It takes a little bit of joy away from our ceremony knowing you can't join us,'" she said.
San Francisco residents Carolyn and Mona Harvey, a lesbian couple who first celebrated a commitment ceremony on Mount Tamalpais 26 years ago, sat on a bench in front of the clerk-recorder's office wearing black T-shirts that bore the message, "I do."
The Harveys said they were married in February 2004 when former Mayor Gavin Newsom changed San Francisco's official marriage policy to extend the right to same-sex couples.
"I just love San Francisco," Mona said. "Our government is really fighting for it."
They remarried during the brief period between the time a state Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in California in May 2008 and the passage of Proposition 8 that November. Same-sex marriages that occurred during that window remain valid.
"We're lucky," Carolyn said. "For the moment, we're married."
Same-sex couples from the East Bay planned to gather at 3:30 p.m. to apply for marriage licenses at the clerk's office at 555 Escobar St. in Martinez.
South Bay couples were scheduled to protest the gay marriage ban at starting at 3 p.m. at the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder's Office, located at 625 Court St. in San Jose.