San Francisco celebrates same-sex marriage ruling

City Attorney Dennis Herrera (at podium) and other city officials weigh in on today's Ninth Circuit ruling
Steve Rhodes

While the usual procession of heterosexual couples beamed as they said their wedding vows on City Hall's Grand Staircase this morning, a historic celebration took place in the South Light Court: hundreds applauded the announcement that same-sex couples are a big step closer to achieving equality in the basic right to marry.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held today that Proposition 8, which eliminated same sex marriage rights for couples in California, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The court ruled that Prop. 8 served no purpose but to discriminate against one class of people, and the Constitution does not allow for “laws of this sort.”

The ruling specifically addressed the arguments advanced by proponents of Prop 8 that gay marriage would interfere with childrearing and religious freedom in the state.

“All parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples…of the right to obtain and use the designation ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less,” the judges wrote.

The ruling does not mean that marriage licenses will immediately be issued to same sex couples. A stay on the ruling has not been lifted. But the stay could be lifted in as early as 21 days from now. But more probably, it will take months or even years; the case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Deputy City Attorney Terry Stewart – the lead attorney that defended San Francisco's 2004 decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which later triggered the Prop. 8 campaign – said the city is eager to see marriage equality, and that “city mechanisms and machinery stand ready to do whatever we can to expedite the process.”

The decision was based partly on logic that, since LGBTQ Californians already have parental rights and the right to domestic partnerships, denying them the right to marry could not be rationalized. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that this is a “narrow decision,” meaning that if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it would apply only to California.

There remains a possibility that the Supreme Court will reject the case, and in that situation the Ninth Circuit decision striking down Prop. 8 would take immediate affect.

Members of the Bay Area coalition of Welcoming Congregations were present at the announcement.

“I’m jubilant,” said Rev. Roland Stringfellow of the Pacific School of Theology in Berkeley. “When it comes to equality, this is something we preach.”

He adding that his church had been performing same-sex marriages since the 1970s, and that he eagerly awaits legal recognition of his own union with his partner.

Sup. Scott Wiener acknowledged, “the fight is not over yet.”

But he said, “Every so often we get a court ruling that reaffirms our faith in the judicial system…this is a time for us to come together and celebrate.”

California political leaders issued several statements praised the court's decision.

“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision,” said Gov. Jerry Brown.

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying:
“I celebrate the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court today. This is a great day for marriage equality and a great day for California families. The Court affirmed today that there is nothing in the Constitution that allows discrimination and we are on our way to protecting the fundamental rights of everyone in our State. And, we will continue the fight until everyone is treated equally.  

“San Francisco stands ready to begin marrying same sex couples, and we remain as deeply committed to the fight for marriage equality today as we did nearly eight years ago when then Mayor Gavin Newsom started one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation to ensure equality for all.

“I would also like to acknowledge the tireless work of our City Attorney Dennis Herrera and his team in defense of marriage equality and the California Constitution these last eight years. Together, we will take this fight all the way to the nation’s highest court, if necessary.”


democracy. The voters decided what type of institutions they wanted in this State, and that has been disrespected.

Of course, SCOTUS may well over-rule this.

But imagine that CA voters approved a gan ban or a new tax, and then the lawyers managed to get it tossed. The SFBG would be up in arms about an affront to democracy, and not "celebrating".

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

Yes, the court performing its constitutionally mandated duty to review laws is *surely* undemocratic -- anti-American even! Perhaps you think we should just disregard the Constitution entirely and finally rid ourselves of this pesky judicial branch as a check on executive and legislative power (including the legislative power of unlawful, costly, and discriminatory voter initiatives?) Would that be democratic enough for you? How about if we just kill the judicial address of grievance thing as well while we're at it -- that whole Magna Carta thing is ruining heterosexual marriage! For democracy!  

Posted by marke on Feb. 07, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

I am TOTALLY behind passing a gan ban. There are far too many gans in the hands of children.

Posted by marke on Feb. 07, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

is that when citizens united verdict came down the progressives were outraged at the decision going against the people, but in this case it's a victory for the people. Granted people across the spectrum didn't like the decision.

I voted no on 8 and I think it's great that people can get married to anyone they wish and think when that happens nation wide it will be great.

When the process is going your way it's great and cause for saluting legislative history, while when not going your way it's an outrage against the common folk that progressive claim to speak for and the legislative system is bankrupt.

One decision is an indictment of the horrid and flawed American system that only serves the 1%, another decision coming out of the same process is something else entirely.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 07, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

When the courts make a lousy decision that tramples on people's rights, it's an outrage. When the courts make a good decision that expands people's rights, it's a victory.

Oh, wait. I know. Your point is to bash progressives. Again.

Go away, troll.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 7:56 am

constitution when it's allowing minority groups to extend their "rights" but then you're willing to dump it the moment it ensures that we can all bear arms and get new taxes tossed out.

I have no view on whether gays should be allowed to marry or not, but it does concern me when the people cannot have a say in how their institutions function.

Not all the arguments against gay marriage are religious ones.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Look, you have a say in how your institutions work, but in a civilized society that say shouldn't extend to taking away other people's rights. That's the difference between democracy and tyranny of the majority. You're arguing for the latter.

What if you "democratically," by a majority vote, took away the right of gays to vote? If you can take away their right to marry by majority vote, why not the right to vote? Or to own property? Or to adopt children... oh wait... I think a couple states already do this. And why stop at gays? Why not a ballot initiative to take away the right to vote from black people? Maybe a ballot initiative to put all citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps? Is this OK, as long as it passes by majority vote? I say it's most definitely NOT OK.

We're not talking about how much taxes someone should pay, or how your business is zoned. We're taking about fundamental rights, that no majority should be able to take away. And if the constitution permits that, then we need a new constitution.

And btw... I voted against the gun ban.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

citizens united what rights were people denied.

The city of SF sued the state over prop 209 at the behest of the various "rights"commissions, what rights were people denied by prop 209 passing?

The crux of the selective complaining isn't that people are denied rights, it's that they are denied the ability to pass laws to micro manage.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

elect. So if the people feel strongly enough about something, they can enact it. If enough people really want gays to have no rights, then that can happen.

As the old saying has it, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

Of course gays can be denied rights if enough people want it. That's been the situation for all of our history, and only now is it finally changing. Any constitution is only as good as the people interpreting it. That's why I'm not such a constitutional fetishist. At various times in our history, the same constitution that supposedly guides us today has ostensibly allowed slavery, denied women the right to vote, allowed states to ban interracial marriage, allowed racial discrimination in the workplace, etc. Arguing about what the founding fathers meant is like arguing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. In reality, the only thing that really guides the decisions of any of these politicians, judges, and constitutional scholars, are their own personal biases. Liberal or conservative, it doesn't matter. Whatever their biases happen to be, that's what they read into the constitution. If they happen to have gone through law school, they're just better able to couch their personal biases in the appropriate legalese.

And none of us are any different, myself included. My biases just happen to be in favor of preserving fundamental human rights, justice, and equality. When judges and politicians advance those goals, I celebrate it. When they don't, I oppose it.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

Nobody is going to say they oppose them.

But every time a right is given to one class, it is invariably taken away from others. Even the abolition of slavery took away property rights from others.

There isn't a free lunch. It's all identity politics.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

If you oppose equal rights, then you oppose equality by definition. If your sense of justice is that the property rights of slave owners are just as important as the right of people to be free... well I guess you can call that "justice," but if that's your idea of justice, you and I have very different ideas about what justice means.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

subjective notion. If you truly believe in equality then you should be sending 90% of your income to those overseas who are suffering from famine. But you don't. You enjoy your comfortable standard of living here and preaching "equality" is little more than a hobby and a diversion for you.

Things aren't equal, never will be, and life isn't fair. The rules are the same for everyone and so - get on with it instead of whining.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

we should just give up and shouldn't try and make anything better. That's essentially your argument.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 09, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

Thats not a very good example. No one really should have a right to own someone.

The lefts obsession with rights while steeping it all in decontextualized meaningless buzz words like "fairness" and "equality" is really just definitional propaganda on their part.

They get to define "fairness," then they use all the code words like "racism" to brow beat those not willing to go along.

Their position on illegal immigration is a better example, the federal government explicitly has the right to decide what rights non citizens have. To be an illegal immigrant is a right that progressives claim, while ignoring the actual government that legislates that right. Rights in many contexts is a meaningless buzz word too, nothing to do with the actual constitution, but their feelings.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

BS - you have no view on gay marriage. What rock do you live under. Everyone has a view.
I suppose your comment that "Not all the arguments against gay marriage are religious ones." refers to the view which you do not have.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

not. It doesn't strike me as being that important. If you hold a gun to my head and ask me to pick a side, I'd say let the voters of each State decide for themselves.

Ultimately I see this not as a religious matter but a constitutional matter.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

Hmmm... I'm not sure if the above person is trying to impersonate me, or it's just another Greg who happens to agree with me. Both are possible, and I've seen both occur on these comment pages.

That said, I agree that you do have a view. If your view is that it's a "states rights" issue, then you're probably a conservative. Your view is that treating human beings equally is not a fundamental human rights issue, but is something that should be decided by the states... kind of like parking regulations or zoning. That's a point of view, one that I disagree with.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

"Greg" appears to be so inconsistent and self-contradictory.

But a belief in states' rights isn't intrinsically either conservative or liberal. It merely means that one believes in the federal model and the constitution, i.e. you believe in America.

There's no point in having democratic freedoms if some opinionated bozo is going to tell you what you should think.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

"States rights" used in the context of American politics, is a code phrase.

In practice, however, the conservatives who march under the states rights banner (and it's always conservatives) are hypocrites. They talk about states rights until you get to things like abortion, gays, drugs... then they'll oppose it any way they can. If they can pass a federal law to prevent states from enacting laws that they don't like, that's what they'll do.

Like I said, liberals are no different. Nobody really believes in the constitution, or states rights, or whatever. They just believe in their biases. What cracks me up is when some people try to pretend they're guided by high constitutional principles.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

I fully understand that you define the world in such a way that you are always on the side of rights, no matter how tortured the logic.

But another person might be of the opinion as fact that citizens united was an expansion of rights, their revealed world of opinion as fact view contradicts yours.

I know, I know, corporate entities and all the different ways you create reality to suit the minute, and your belief that progressives somehow are for "rights," although that whole progressive prop H hand gun ban thing aside struck down by the state supremes aside.

The thing here is, your type have never lost an election or a court decision that wasn't somehow part of some greater issue. You were outspent, the masses were duped, white privilege, old white judges, classism, racism, the elites have done something or another etc... there is always some extraneous reasoning as to why you lost. While when you win it's a victory for the people(tm) and it's all so simple. And that is really a strange way to look at the world.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

It allowed unions a new way of influencing elections.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

It gives any organized entity the ability for unlimited spending on politics, I think thats a bad thing in general.

Unlike the true believer I think humans are capable of making rational choices out of self interest, so I don't know how much all the spending really means.

The people most worked up about citizens united seem to be working under the assumption that the rest of the population is too stupid to make their own choices. They think that the world view they have is correct, the only reason the rest of us don't fall for it is because the rest of us are fooled and duped by all that money in elections.

Unions and business probably cancel each other out in many cases.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

desire money. You think money is going out of style?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

People can be influenced. There's no denying that. If money didn't influence election outcomes, rich people wouldn't spend it that way. Rich people are not stupid, you know. And they don't spend their money frivolously.

One can argue that it's totally OK to spend unlimited cash to buy elections, but there's no way you can call that a democratic system. Why not just dispense with the charade of voting and just have an auction?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

As a rule, those with the most money to spend are those who get elected. Welcome to the American plutocracy.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

It's not like everything was hunky dory with our "democracy" pre-Citizens United. Citizens United pretty much just cut out the charade. Now, the Super PACs are just going wild. Hopefully the fact that we've dropped just about any pretense of democracy will spark a backlash. If not, at some point I may just leave the country. Citizenship isn't a suicide pact.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

for Gus Hall, if Gus Hall had enough money?

Like I said, the people most worked up by this think that if we removed money from the equation people would start voting right.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

Gingrinch voter an Obama voter?

Money might make a Romney voter an Obama voter.

The money is about getting the middle to vote your way, or getting the people out who are predisposed to vote your way.

So yes, you think the mass of people are stupid, because you keep losing elections, even when your side outspends the other side.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

It is a Constitutional Republic.

Posted by wargames83 on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

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