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For the third straight day, hundreds of homosexuals have been streaming into San Francisco’s City Hall in response to newly-elected Mayor Gavin Newsom’s unprecedented order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of state law.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (Photo: baycrossings.com)
This morning, about 300 people lined up outside City Hall to
secure marriage licenses on Valentine’s Day – and then take vows as ”spouses for life.”
The response has been so
overwhelming that nearly 200 city officials, led by Newsom, have volunteered to pitch in. Sheriff’s deputies are providing security to clerks processing the
licenses, according to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, the city by the bay became the site of the first officially sanctioned same-sex weddings in American history. And since then, more than 400 licenses have been issued, emboldening homosexuals across the nation to request licenses, albeit unsuccessfully, from their own local courthouses.
Opponents seeking an injunction to nullify the licenses lamented Newsom’s carefully orchestrated timing, which prevents them from standing before a judge until Tuesday morning.
With the city’s decision to keep the clerk’s office open this weekend, same-sex couples from all over the state, and beyond, are expected to continue the rush to City Hall. Long lines formed yesterday of couples holding hands, waiting for their chance to pay the $82 fee and engage in a brief ceremony in which they promise to be “spouses for life.”
The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund sought an emergency hearing yesterday afternoon but was rejected for failing to give defendants the 24-hours notice required by law.
A similar suit was filed yesterday morning on behalf of the pro-family lobby group Campaign for California Families, but because of the President’s Day holiday, the hearing will not be held until 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Richard Ackerman, an attorney assisting CCF, expects the San Francisco Superior Court judge to issue an immediate injunction because of the potential for damage if the licenses ultimately are nullified.
“Those people are on an emotional roller coaster,” Ackerman told WorldNetDaily, referring to the couples who received a license. “If we find out this is all for naught, the mayor will have hurt a lot of people.”
Ackerman said Newsom timed the series of events perfectly. On Tuesday night he announced his intent to issue the licenses. CCF responded Wednesday, requiring the entire day to prepare the lawsuit. Because Thursday was an off-day for the court due to Lincoln’s birthday, the earliest they could file was yesterday. But since the defendants require 24-hours notice, CCF will not have its hearing until Tuesday.
Law ‘doesn’t make sense’
Newsom argues homosexuals should be able to marry based on the California Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The 36-year-old mayor, who began his term Jan. 8, insists he merely is fulfilling his duty.
“I’m not interested as a mayor in moving forward with a separate but unequal process for people to engage in marriages,” Newsom said yesterday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The people of this city and certainly around the state are feeling that separate but unequal doesn’t make sense.”
But the Alliance Defense Fund – representing state Sen. William Knight, author of a successful state ballot-measure that limited marriage to a man and a woman – argues the San Francisco County Clerk has no authority under the state’s constitution to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“This isn’t civil disobedience on the mayor’s part; its sheer unfettered anarchy and complete disdain for the rule of law,” ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull said. “No mayor, not even the mayor of San Francisco, has the authority to defy the laws of the state in which they reside.”
The statutes under the family code specify marriage is reserved to a man and a woman, and Bull points out no court has declared that section to be unconstitutional.
“Officials charged with solemnizing marriages must enforce those statutes on constitutional grounds when issuing marriage licenses, regardless of what [Mayor] Newsom orders them to do,” said Bull.
CCF’s executive director, Randy Thomasson, believes the mayor’s move could backfire on him.
“Mayor Gavin Newsom is inspiring decent people everywhere to rise up and demand better government to protect marriage and family,” Thomasson told WND. “He is outraging parents and grandparents everywhere, and we are urging those citizens to direct their anger in a positive way, to call their legislators and Governor Schwarzenegger.”
Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of the public interest firm Liberty Counsel, which also is assisting Thomasson’s group, believes the court will “void this publicity stunt.”
“Mayor Newsom has no more right to do what he is doing than he does to secede the state of California from the union,” he said.
Homosexual-rights groups reacted with delight Thursday, however, when 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.
Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, said: “To suggest that these couples are experiencing a profound sense of happiness is an understatement.”
Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called it “an unforgettable day.”
“For the first time in this country, lesbian and gay couples in loving, committed relationships were able to exercise the same right to protect their families that others take for granted.”
San Francisco’s unorthodox move put California at center stage in a national debate that has been focused recently on Massachusetts.
Last week, the state’s 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.
The Massachusetts Legislature, however, suspended debate Thursday after the narrow defeat of three amendments during two days of tense negotiations. The lawmakers will reconvene the constitutional convention March 11.
During this Valentine’s week, an estimated 4,000 same-sex couples nationwide tried unsuccessfully to apply for a marriage license during “Freedom to Marry Week.”
The campaign of the predominantly homosexual Metropolitan Community Church was aimed at gathering opposition to a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would restrict marriage to a man and a woman.
The federal amendment has gained momentum in Congress with the court ruling in Massachusetts and elsewhere.
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, introduced 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 San Francisco Chronicle.
CCF’s Thomasson said “a judge will stop Mayor Newsom, but only the people of California can raise their voice to stop the corrupt gay marriage license bill of Mark Leno.”
“He is trashing the vote of the people,” said Thomasson, alluding to the electorate’s decision to restrict marriage to a man and a woman.
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