Marriage protest for same-sex couples enters 10th year in San Francisco 

Today, Luz Sigman and Cynthia Gamino will walk up to the city clerk of San Francisco and ask for a marriage license. And the city clerk will reject them.

So they will sit down in the clerk’s office and watch other couples walk past them and receive licenses.
Sigman said it “sucks to go up there with the person you love and not be able to get married.”

This is the 10th year same-sex couples will engage in this type of civil disobedience, and only once did it end any differently. That was seven years ago Saturday, when then-new Mayor Gavin Newsom had the clerk go ahead and issue the licenses, kicking off 2004’s famous “winter of love.”

Those licenses were later invalidated by the California Supreme Court. That same body is currently considering whether to deliberate for a fourth time in less than seven years on a same-sex marriage case — and a decision could come as soon as today, according to Marriage Equality USA spokeswoman Molly McKay.  

The first time the high court considered same-sex marriage was in 2004, when it determined The City could not unilaterally decide same-sex marriage was lawful, and it insisted the issue be decided through a legal process. So San Francisco and other parties sued the state, demanding equal treatment under the law.

That case ultimately found its way back to the California Supreme Court in 2008, when justices struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as discriminatory and unconstitutional. During the next six months, some 18,000 same-sex couples married, until California voters passed Proposition 8, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The issue returned to the high court for a third time, and it decided it could not overturn the will of voters.

Now The City and other parties are challenging Prop. 8 in federal court. It has reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in December asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in on a specific question — whether the groups defending Prop. 8 in court have the right to do so. Neither the governor nor the state’s attorney general have defended Prop. 8, so private groups have been forced to do so, and their legal standing is unclear.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said it has been a long road.

“If you predicted for me back in 2004 that I’d still be involved in this fight seven years later, I certainly would have hoped that we’d have marriage equality for everybody by this time,” he said.

Sigman said she is hoping the issue will be resolved once and for all soon enough for her and Gamino to be handed their marriage license next year, when they plan to have a commitment ceremony regardless of the legal standing. The pair met a year ago when Sigman worked up the courage to give Gamino her card at a coffee shop. Date one went great.

“I may or may not have done some drunk texting that night, and yet she wanted to hang out with me again. Amazing!” Sigman said.

A year later, the two are engaged and ready to commit for life.

“We’re no spring chickens anymore, so we just want to do it,” she said. “We want the same rights as everybody else.”

Key dates in fight for same-sex marriage

Feb. 12, 2004: Mayor Gavin Newsom kicks off the “winter of love,” authorizing the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. More than 4,000 such couples marry during the 29-day wedding spree that followed.
March 11, 2004: San Francisco stops issuing same-sex marriage licenses at the order of the California Supreme Court.
March 2004: Twelve same-sex couples and two gay-rights groups file a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court.
Aug. 12, 2004: The California Supreme Court invalidates The City’s marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.
March 14, 2005: San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer declares California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Oct. 5, 2006: A California Court of Appeal panel, via a 2-1 ruling, upholds marriage laws as constitutional that exclude gay and lesbian couples.
May 15, 2008: The California Supreme Court overturns the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban via a 4-3 vote.
June 2, 2008: Proposition 8, a ballot measure amending the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, qualifies for the ballot.
June 16, 2008: The state Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage becomes effective. Some 18,000 same-sex couples marry during the next six months.
Nov. 4, 2008: Prop. 8 is passed with just more than 52 percent of the vote. County clerks begin halting same-sex marriages.
Nov. 5, 2008: San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, along with two other groups, files a challenge to Prop. 8.
May 22, 2009: Two same-sex couples challenge Prop. 8 in federal court.
May 26, 2009: The state Supreme Court upholds Prop. 8, but rules that couples already married can remain so.
Aug. 4, 2010: Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker rules Prop. 8 is unconstitutional, but he issues a stay in the ruling.
Nov. 29, 2010: Three federal judges selected for appeal of Walker’s ruling.

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Katie Worth

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