SAN FRANCISCO – The lead plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned California's same-sex marriage ban tied the knot at San Francisco City Hall on Friday, about an hour after a federal appeals court freed gay couples to obtain marriage licenses for the first time in 4 1/2 years.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris presided at the wedding of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, of Berkeley, as hundreds of supporters looked on and cheered. The couple sued to overturn the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban along with Jeff Katami and Paul Zarrillo, of Burbank, who planned to marry Friday evening at Los Angeles City Hall.
"By joining the case against Proposition 8, they represented thousands of couples like themselves in their fight for marriage equality," Harris, who had asked the appeals court to act swiftly, said during Stier and Perry's brief ceremony. "Through the ups and downs, the struggles and the triumphs, they came out victorious."
Harris declared Perry, 48, and Stier, 50, "spouses for life," but during their vows, they took each other as "lawfully wedded wife." One of their twin sons served as ring-bearer.
Although the couple fought for the right to wed for years, their wedding came together in a flurry when a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order Friday afternoon dissolving, "effective immediately," a stay it imposed on gay marriages while the lawsuit challenging the ban advanced through the courts.
Sponsors of California's same-sex marriage ban called the appeals court's swift action "outrageous."
"The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means. If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for a coalition of religious conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8.
"It remains to be seen whether the fight can go on, but either way, it is a disgraceful day for California," Pugno said.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday that Proposition 8's sponsors lacked authority to defend the measure in court once Harris and Gov. Jerry Brown, both Democrats, refused to do so.
The decision lets stand a trial judge's declaration that the ban, approved by voters in November 2008, violates the civil rights of gay Californians and cannot be enforced.
Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has 25 days to ask the high court to rehear the case. The court said earlier this week that it would not finalize its ruling in the Proposition 8 case until after that time had elapsed.
It was not immediately clear whether the appeals court's action would be halted by the high court, but Gov. Jerry Brown directed California counties to start performing same-sex marriages immediately in the wake of it.
A memo from Brown's Department of Public Health said "same-sex marriage is again legal in California" and ordered county clerks to resume issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Given that word did not come down from the appeals court until mid-afternoon, most counties were not prepared to stay open late to accommodate potential crowds. The clerks in a few counties announced that they would stay open a few hours later Friday.
A jubilant San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced that same-sex couples would be able to marry all weekend in his city, which is hosting its annual gay pride celebration this weekend.