SAN FRANCISCO — The four plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban tied the knot Friday, just hours after a federal appeals court freed gay couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state for the first time in 4 1/2 years.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris presided at the San Francisco City Hall wedding of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier 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, who married at Los Angeles City Hall 90 minutes later with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presiding.
“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, the Berkeley couple took each other as “lawfully wedded wife.” One of their twin sons served as ring-bearer.
Although the couples fought for the right to wed for years, their weddings 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 had imposed on gay marriages while the lawsuit challenging the ban advanced through the courts.
“The fact of the matter is the only thing holding up the weddings was the stay that the 9th Circuit had in place,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who joined the two couples in the lawsuit, said. “The fact that there is a separate 25-day period allowing the petition to go for a rehearing is separate and apart from that stay.”
Brown directed California counties to start performing same-sex marriages immediately after the appeals court’s order. A memo from the 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.