By LISA LEFF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN FRANCISCO — A crowd at San Francisco City Hall applauded the news Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, but the reaction was shaded by the knowledge that the high court had sidestepped the larger question of whether banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.
The justices voted 5-4 to let stand a trial court's August 2010 ruling that overturned the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban, holding that the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified Proposition 8 for the ballot did not have authority to defend it after state officials refused to do so.
The practical effect of the Supreme Court ruling, however, is likely to be more legal wrangling before the state can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time since Proposition 8 passed in November 2008.
"While it is unfortunate that the court's ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court's order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable," said Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the ban's supporters.
The uncertainty has made it impossible for anyone to say when gay marriage might resume in California, where such unions had been legal for 4 1/2 months and an estimated 18,000 couples tied the knot before passage of Prop 8.
Gay marriage advocates said marriages could resume as soon as the midlevel appeals court that also invalidated Prop 8 lifts a hold it put on the lower court order while the litigation made its way to the Supreme Court. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said his group would be pushing for that to happen within days instead of weeks.
"The headline here is marriage is starting very, very soon in the great state of California, and those couples should be planning those weddings tonight," Griffin said.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he has directed the California Department of Public Health to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as the hold is lifted.
City and state officials said they were assuming that the earliest marriage licenses could be extended to same-sex couples would be the end of July, to give Prop 8 sponsors time to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider. Under Supreme Court rules, a losing side has 25 days to petition for a rehearing, and a decision would not become final until that period elapses.
Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and state public health director Ron Chapman might then need a few more days to notify county clerks that same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses should no longer be turned away. The three officials were named as defendants in the case but refused to defend Prop 8 in court,
Many activists had hoped the court would strike down bans on gay marriage across the nation as unconstitutional.
The battle over same-sex marriage in California started at San Francisco City Hall in 2004, when then-mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. On Wednesday, he brought the biggest cheers from the City Hall gathering when he said San Francisco is a city of "doers" that not only tolerates diversity, but celebrates it every day.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the ruling a great victory. He said people criticized the city in 2004, saying it was moving too fast in granting marriage licenses. But Herrera said he believes the only way to get things done is to "kick down the door."
The measured enthusiasm contrasted with the exuberant cheers that greeted word earlier that the Supreme Court had struck down a federal law that prevents the U.S. government from granting marriage benefits to gay couples.
Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this story.
BEFORE YOU GO
06/26/2013 7:32 PM EDT
Catholic Archbishop: DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings 'Hurt Us All'
Some Catholic leaders are asking parishioners to consider the judgment of a higher power, not the nation's highest court.
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued a statement criticizing the Supreme Court's decision in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, saying that attempts to redefine marriage "hurt us all."
The well-being of our society, our nation, and our families is intimately linked to the institution of marriage. These decisions by the United States Supreme Court will make significantly more difficult our work of upholding the truth that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Such decisions, made by any civic authority, do not serve the common good.
Catholics and millions of our fellow citizens will continue to make the case, respectfully yet vigorously, that marriage cannot be redefined, and that attempts to do so hurt us all.
Read more here.
06/26/2013 5:58 PM EDT
Stonewall Inn Crowd Celebrates DOMA, Vows To Keep Fighting
The Huffington Post's Lila Shapiro reports:
NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, the Stonewall Inn opened earlier than usual. At 10 a.m., the day the U.S. Supreme Court handed the gay rights movement a landmark victory, the historic bar was dimly lit, strung with rainbow flags, and filled with revelers toasting each other and pledging their determination to keep fighting.
Read the whole post here.
06/26/2013 4:16 PM EDT
Washington National Cathedral Rings Bells Celebrating Gay Marriage Rulings
The Washington National Cathedral rang bells at noon today to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense Of Marriage Act and Prop 8.
Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, released a statement soon after the rulings were announced:
“We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants," he said. "Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."
Click here to hear the bells.
06/26/2013 4:12 PM EDT
Matthew Shepard's Mom Responds To DOMA Ruling
Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, said she wished her son had lived to see Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA.
"I wish he'd been here to see it," she said. "This case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true."
Click here to read more.
06/26/2013 3:45 PM EDT
Marriage Equality Supporters Pictured Reacting To SCOTUS Rulings From Stonewall Inn
(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:31 PM EDT
Celebrating From Stonewall Inn, Iconic Location Credited For The Start Of The LGBT Movement
(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:20 PM EDT
Couple Kiss, Celebrate SCOTUS Decisions While Holding Their Soon-To-Be Adopted Children
(Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
06/26/2013 3:09 PM EDT
DOMA Decision Helps LGBT Couples On Immigration
HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:
Judy Rickard, who is 65, and Karin Bogliolo, who is 72, have been together for eight years, legal domestic partners for five and legally married for two. They're one of an estimated 28,500 binational same-sex couples who have been excluded from immigration benefits because of DOMA, which disallowed the federal government from recognizing their marriages. The ruling doesn't entirely fix the problem -- couples must be married rather than partners, and must travel to a state that allows same-sex marriage if they don't live in one -- but it's still a major victory for LGBT rights.
Read more about Rickard and Bogliolo and more couples helped by the DOMA decision here.
06/26/2013 3:07 PM EDT
Food Network Host Announces Engagement To Partner Of 20 Years
Ted Allen, host of the hit Food Network show "Chopped" and his partner of 20 years, interior designer Barry Rice, were "over the moon" when they read on Wednesday morning that the court had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Their day had come. They were getting married. Allen quickly announced their engagement on Twitter and Facebook. He said that the notices garnered the most enthusiastic response of any he'd ever posted; his Facebook status received 417 comments in the first 40 minutes.
Fellow food competition host Tom Colicchio sent his enthusiastic congratulations to the couple via Twitter.
Allen said that he and Rice would soon begin preparing for their wedding, likely a quiet affair in New York, but for now they're content to revel in the good news.
"I don't think that by any means our movement is finished, that our work is done, but this was an enormous hurdle," he said. "DOMA has been Chopped, sir."
-- Joe Satran
06/26/2013 3:01 PM EDT
'Make Them Hear You'
The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, singing "Make Them Hear You" after the Supreme Court rulings. Watch a video of the performance below: