S.F. hails Prop. 8 victory, vows to fight on if need be 

  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner

Proposition 8 is dead — again.

But this time, it might just stick.

Couples could begin receiving marriage licenses again at City Hall in less than a month, following the U.S. Supreme Court's nonruling Wednesday on Prop. 8, California's 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Since Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to defend Prop. 8 on behalf of the state following federal Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling that the law was unconstitutional, it was left to the ban's backers — private citizens — to attempt a defense.

The Supreme Court skirted a sweeping pronouncement on same-sex marriage, but in a 5-4 ruling Wednesday they ruled that as private citizens, Prop. 8's backers had no legal standing to defend it in court.

At City Hall in The City, hundreds crowded into the rotunda before 7 a.m. and waited for more than an hour to hear the decision.

A trickle of information about 7:40 a.m. led to a torrent of cheers as onlookers discovered via CNN and a live feed of SCOTUSBlog that the court had first struck down most of the Defense of Marriage Act before ruling that it would not rule on Prop. 8.

Minutes later, The City's elected officials appeared at the top of City Hall's grand staircase. Joining them was Phyllis Lyon, the longtime LGBT activist who married her wife, Del Martin, shortly before Martin's death in 2008. She led a procession down the stairs, escorted by Mayor Ed Lee and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to a chorus of applause, cheers and a few tears.

"It's been a long road and it's been many years," said Lee, flanked by members of the Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and former Mayor Willie Brown. "But it feels good to finally get love to triumph over ignorance."

The ruling comes days before San Francisco's annual Pride parade and celebration, which is Sunday. For some, the timing could not be better.

"It's gonna be one effin' amazing Pride," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

It is possible that Prop. 8's backers could appeal the Supreme Court's decision and petition the court to hear the case after all. In a statement on ProtectMarriage.com, general counsel Andy Pugno vowed to continue to defend Prop. 8 "until there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop. 8 unenforceable," though he did not specify exactly what backers would do.

Should "more litigating" at a lower court be required, The City is ready, said Herrera, who vowed to keep fighting in the courts until gay marriage is a civil right for all Americans.

Herrera will issue a legal opinion to San Francisco's city clerk that same-sex marriages may resume. Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Harris have made a similar move on the state level.

That means it is time to plan nuptials, said Stuart Gaffney, who with husband John Lewis was one of the first to receive a marriage license at City Hall in 2008.

"This is a huge win for California," he said. "Nothing is more personal than marriage, and this ruling means our friends can begin planning their marriages. They are going to be able to say 'I do,' and it's going to be legal."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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