With the prodding of Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco officials defied state law today by officiating at the marriage of two lesbians and vowing to issue a license to any homosexual couple that applies.
The unprecedented move apparently was intended to upstage a pro-family lobby group’s attempt to thwart Newsom’s plans.
Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin today became the first same-sex couple to be officially married in the United States (Photo: San Francisco Chronicle)
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Sacramento-based California Campaign for Families had planned to file for an injunction in San Francisco Superior Court Friday to prevent the city from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
But just before noon today, City Assessor Mabel Teng presided over a closed-door civil ceremony at City Hall for longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, mayor’s spokesman Peter Ragone said, according to the Associated Press, which noted the two have been a couple for 51 years.
Ragone said officials now will issue a marriage license to any homosexual couple applying for one.
Matthew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, the public interest firm representing CCF, told WorldNetDaily the mayor’s “illegal actions” are the first instance of officially sanctioned same-sex marriage in the United States.
But the lawsuit will be filed as scheduled, he said.
“The mayor has not only lost his mind, he needs a good lesson in civics and government,” Staver said. “He can’t undermine our lawsuit by engaging in civil disobedience. This is a county ruled by law, not by an oligarchy, by people who want to put themselves up as king.”
The actions of a “renegade” mayor, Staver said, actually strengthen CCF’s case.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (Photo: baycrossings.com)
“The licenses are not worth the paper they are written on,” he told WND, adding sanctions also will be filed against the mayor to recover the costs of the suit.
San Francisco’s move likely will set off legal challenges forcing state courts to determine whether barring same-sex couples from marrying is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said in an advisory opinion same-sex couples are entitled to marriage and not an alternative, such as Vermont-style civil unions. The high court decided Nov. 18 homosexual couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution. However, the 4-3 November ruling stopped short of declaring homosexual couples should be granted the license, ordering the state legislature to come up with a solution by mid-May.
Newsom argues “gays” and lesbians should be able to marry based on the California Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week.
Yesterday, Campaign for California Families Executive Director Randy Thomasson responded to reports of Newsom’s plans, arguing “California state law says marriage is only for a man and a woman.”
Newsom, 36, who took office Jan. 8, insists he merely is fulfilling his duty.
“A little more than a month ago, I took the oath of office here at City Hall and swore to uphold California’s Constitution, which clearly outlaws all forms of discrimination,” Newsom said earlier this week, according to the San Francisco paper. “Denying basic rights to members of our community will not be tolerated.”
Thomasson contends Newsom has it all wrong.
“When Mayor Newsom raised his right hand and swore to uphold the law, he either lied or didn’t do his homework,” he said. “Newsom’s out-of-control behavior shows he is pandering to special interests like [former Gov.] Gray Davis did. San Francisco can’t make state law – that is the job of the sovereign state of California.”
The court ruling in Massachusetts and elsewhere has prompted Congress to propose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Last year, California passed a domestic partner law giving same-sex couples virtually all the rights of marriage without using the term. But state Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, plans to introduce a bill this week to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. It would allow same-sex couples to travel across state lines without jeopardizing their marriage rights.
“It’s a one-two punch,” Leno said of his and Newsom’s efforts, according to the Chronicle.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer has not taken a position on Newsom’s proposal or on same-sex marriage, the paper said.
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