City officials in San Francisco, at their mayor’s request, yesterday officiated at 87 “marriages” of homosexual couples and issued licenses to 95 more, marking the first time that government officials in the United States have allowed same-sex couples to “marry.”
“Today, a barrier to true justice has been removed,” said Gavin Newsom, the recently elected mayor of San Francisco. Homosexual rights groups cheered the “acts of civil disobedience,” which gave an elderly lesbian couple the first license.
But traditional-values groups said they would file legal papers today with the San Francisco Superior Court to block the licenses.
“They’re not worth the paper they’re printed on,” said Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for California Families, which opposes homosexual “marriage.”
As a media circus in San Francisco revved up, lawmakers in Massachusetts continued their second day of debate on a state constitutional amendment to overturn eventually the Nov. 18 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized homosexual “marriage.”
The joint House-Senate session rejected an amendment that defined marriage in the constitution as between a man and a woman but also said, “Nothing in this article requires or prohibits civil unions” in the state.
The Massachusetts lawmakers later took up another amendment, which would define marriage as a man and a woman, but states that “two persons of the same sex shall have the right to form a civil union.”
Unlike a similar proposal from Senate President Robert Travaglini, which failed Wednesday, this amendment does not specify what happens to homosexual “marriages” contracted between this year and when the amendment becomes law, which could happen no earlier than 2006.
Lawmakers debated into the early morning hours without deciding on the latest amendment.
San Francisco captured national attention yesterday, when Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, became the first homosexual couple to be “married” by a city official. City Assessor Mabel Teng did the honors for the women, who are longtime lesbian activists.
Soon, dozens of homosexual couples crowded outside the San Francisco County Clerk’s office awaiting licenses. By midafternoon, jubilant homosexual couples were lining up under the city hall’s ornate gold dome and exchanging vows in quickly conducted ceremonies.
“Del and Phyllis have been together for more than 50 years. How dare the government say they are not entitled to the legal protections and responsibilities of marriage,” said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, which supports same-sex “marriage.”
Earlier in the week, Mr. Newsom, who took office last month, said that, as part of his duty to uphold the nondiscrimination sections of the California constitution, he wanted San Francisco to become the first U.S. city to defy the ban on same-sex “marriage.”
Mr. Newsom “recognizes that the failure to issue marriage licenses to loving, committed couples is an unjust application of the law,” said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, a homosexual rights group.
“Mayor Newsom has lost his mind,” said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, which represents Mr. Thomasson and the Campaign for California’s Families.
Lawyers with Liberty Counsel will be among those going to court in San Francisco this morning to ask for temporary and permanent injunctions against the licenses, Mr. Thomasson said. The filing will come today because San Francisco’s courts were closed yesterday for Lincoln’s Birthday.
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, said yesterday’s actions by “a rogue mayor” show that “gay activists will skirt the law to create a new privilege that has never existed in the country.”
She said “the American people and their lawmakers” should be allowed to vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that she has proposed.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, lawmakers opposed to homosexual “marriage” made the same argument for popular sovereignty.
On Wednesday, when the constitutional convention began, the 199 lawmakers rejected two amendments that also talked about civil unions, which are legal arrangements that give marriagelike benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples.
“In the end, [the voters] must speak. All of us then, the [Supreme Judicial Court], the members of the House, the members of the Senate and the entire citizenry of Massachusetts, must not only respect, but must abide by their decision,” House Speaker Thomas Finneran said.
Civil unions have emerged as the compromise position since Nov. 18, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state violated the constitution by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The high court stayed its decision for 180 days to allow the legislature to respond to the ruling, and it widely is expected that the state will begin issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples on May 17.