San Francisco: Proposition 8 Dismissal Celebrated In The City That Started It All

SAN FRANCISCO -- An ebullient crowd at San Francisco City Hall erupted into cheers early Wednesday morning upon hearing the news that the Supreme Court had handed supporters of gay marriage two major victories: a ruling of unconstitutionality on the Defense of Marriage Act and an effective dismissal of California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8.

Only moments after the results of both decisions were broadcast, dozens of city and state officials descended the City Hall steps into the rotunda, a room that had seen a multitude of gay and lesbian marriage ceremonies during the last period when gay marriage was legal in the city.

"It feels good to have love triumph over ignorance, to have equality triumph over discrimination, and have that discrimination end here in San Francisco," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who entered the room accompanied by Phyllis Lyon, a nearly 90-year-old member of the first lesbian couple to be married in the city in 2004. "There are many more weddings to be celebrated here."

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San Francisco Celebrates DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, under whose tenure as mayor the city first began allowing gay marriages, was the center of attention, as crowd members screamed, "We love you, Gavin!"

"San Francisco is a city that's prided itself on being on the cutting edge," said Newsom, addressing the crowd immediately after Lee. "It's not a city of dreamers, it's a city of doers. We don't just tolerate diversity here, we celebrate diversity here ... We're not motivated by the cause of marriage equality; we're inspired by it."

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office provided much of the legal justification for the city's initial decision to allow same-sex marriage and has served as co-counsel in the Prop 8 case since 2009, teased Newsom for his high profile during the Prop 8 campaign in 2008. At the time, ads in favor of the marriage ban prominently featured Newsom giving a speech in which he said gay marriage would happen "whether you like it or not."

Herrera's office released a statement after the Supreme Court announcement saying that he will immediately move to enforce the order allowing gay marriages to recommence, even if further legal challenges are brought either by other counties in the state or by anti-gay marriage groups. "Opponents are already saying they'll go back into court," he said. "But we will fight; we already have the motions drafted. We will continue to fight."

San Francisco supervisors David Chiu, Scott Wiener and David Campos also spoke. They drew attention to a bust of slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States who was assassinated only a few short steps from where the celebration was being held Wednesday.

"At the top of these stairs, there is a bust of Harvey Milk," said Chiu. "Harvey told us that we've got to have hope. Today, that hope has triumphed."

Campos, who is one of two openly gay members sitting on the city's Board of Supervisors, noted that these decisions, particularly the DOMA ruling, will have effects throughout the world of public policy.

"This is the first time in history that the nation's highest court has recognized the fundamental humanity of the LGBT community," he said. He also said that the immigration reform measure currently making its way through Congress will have to cover the LGBT community, a sentiment that elicited a rousing cheer from the crowd.

San Francisco residents Jon Ivan Weaver, 60, and Diego Sans, 65, who were married at City Hall during the "Winter of Love" in 2004, told The Huffington Post that they "are so happy now that our other friends can get married as well."

"I was very nervous about the decision. I couldn't sleep last night," said Weaver with a laugh. "I think the Castro is going to be crazy tonight with people who are going to really enjoy, celebrate and appreciate what has happened."

"We didn't know which way it was going to go, but this is beyond our expectations," added Sans with a smile. "Pride weekend is coming up and it's going to be a long celebration."

Susie Kameny, the straight cousin of gay rights pioneer Franklin Kameny, who passed away in 2011, said she was "elated" by the decisions. "Franklin would have been so proud, he just would have been so happy. He would have been unhappy that it's not national, pleased that it's a step in the right direction."

A technology teacher at a school in San Francisco, Susie Kameny said that her excitement about the rulings was, in large part, because of her students. "I've had students whose parents were gay and even one student whose parents were transgender. It's hard, even in this city. But my students aren't the ones oppressing anybody," she said. "I just hope that my students have the freedom to marry who they would like and not be discriminated against."

Some in the crowd, like Nicholas Lemos, came in costume. Dressed as the Statue of Liberty and waving a large rainbow flag on the steps of City Hall, the 42-year-old San Francisco resident explained that "the reason I dressed up as Lady Liberty is because we all deserve to be equal. There's no equality until it's stated by the law, and it's about time that these laws are buried in the history books."

While most of famously LGBT-friendly San Francisco reacted to the Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 with giddy excitement, some groups in the city are decidedly unhappy with the result.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who helped write Prop 8 and made headlines for his vocal opposition to gay rights, released a statement slamming the decisions and lamenting what he feels is a change in the traditional definition of marriage.

"Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court got it wrong," said Cordileone. "Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God's wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it."

San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said that her office is preparing to process thousands of applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples in the coming months. "I want to ensure a smooth and efficient process for everyone during this remarkable moment in history," Chu said in a statement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement that California counties will be required to begin issuing gay marriage licenses as soon as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirms that the stay now blocking the enforcement of the ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban is lifted.

Newsom said he expects California to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples by late July.



California Reactions To DOMA, Proposition 8 Rulings