Hope, disappointment sweep across The City 

Dozens of couples rushed to City Hall in hopes of being wed within minutes of learning about a judge’s ruling to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage.

Upstairs, Mayor Gavin Newsom huddled in his office with seven lawyers, trying to determine whether The City could move ahead and marry the couples.

The decision was made for them. Minutes later, the federal judge issued a stay on marriages, casting a cloud over the ruling in the federal court case.

“Disappointment is standard at this point,” 25-year-old Emily Shine said after she and her partner Terri Northcutt were turned away.

Northcutt chimed in: “Typical, I guess.”

Newsom sparked a wildfire of debate in 2004 when on Valentine’s Day weekend The City began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. More than 4,000 couples were married before the process was halted and a legal fight ensued.

Though there was disappointment about the marriages at City Hall on Wednesday, the feelings were offset by jubilant crowds in The City, such as hundreds of people who went to the Castro to celebrate.

Police shut down portions of the street near the plaza at Castro and 17th streets, as streams of revelers poured into the neighborhood. An eclectic crowed, from families toting their children to activists dressed up in elaborate costumes made up the throngs of joyous participants.

Some feelings were tempered with the knowledge that an appeal was looming and a prolonged legal battle still lies ahead.

“I’m cautiously overjoyed,” said Oakland resident Dave Peck. “It’s a great day, but we’ve been here before.”

Castro resident Eric Proctor, 26, who held up a small American flag in the crowded plaza, said he was very excited about the ruling.

“Right now, I’m going to enjoy this while I can,” said Proctor.

City officials applauded the decision.

"Today’s ruling strikes a resonant chord against discrimination that should not only withstand appeal, but change hearts and minds,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement.

Newsom also pointed out the role The City has played.

“This is a big day for fundamental rights and American values and I’m very proud of it and proud that we played a small role here in 2004,” Newsom said.


Staff Writer Erin Sherbert contributed to this report.


The facts behind the case

The latest legal battle about Proposition 8 challenged the voter-approved measure on federal constitutional grounds.

Who filed the lawsuit: Two same-sex couples: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank.

When: The plaintiffs filed their federal court challenge in May 2009. The trial began in January.

What the legal challenge was: The plaintiffs’ federal court challenge states that Prop. 8 violates the due process and equal-rights clauses of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

What the argument entails: The plaintiffs stated that Prop. 8 discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual discrimination, and divides California residents into separate but unequal groups. The 14th Amendment stipulates that the government can’t deprive the people of their constitutional rights.

Why San Francisco was involved: The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office won a right to intervene in the case on the side of plaintiffs. The City Attorney’s Office is the only public entity involved in the federal lawsuit.

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Will Reisman

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