With a sense of history and a looming battle at the ballot box, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples in California wed on Tuesday, a steady and decidedly confident celebration that was a marked departure from the mad rush here four years ago.
The marriages began in many cities just after 8 a.m., with the early opening of a number of the state’s 58 county clerks’ offices. But unlike the scene in 2004, when San Francisco — and San Francisco alone — broke state law to wed thousands of same-sex couples (the marriages were later nullified by the courts), Tuesday’s ceremonies often had a sense of calm and permanence.
“It was so legally ambiguous last time,” said Lorie Franks, 43, who came to City Hall here, as she had in 2004, to marry her longtime partner, Annemary Franks. “It was really touching, but we kind of knew it was on thin ice. This time, to me, feels more real.”
Much of that security came from the May 15 ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, and the subsequent rejections of challenges to the decision by the same court and the State Court of Appeals, which denied another request for a stay of the marriages on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court’s decision became official at 5:01 p.m. Monday, and Tuesday morning was marked by a burst of mass matrimony, as couples wed in civic buildings, under street-front chuppahs, and in more private locations. California became only the second state to legalize same-sex marriage — Massachusetts did so in 2004 — but California’s law allowing out-of-state residents to marry as well opened the doors here to couples from Kansas, Hawaii and Texas, as well as from Thailand, France and Italy.
Gay rights activists said Tuesday was a watershed moment in the maturation of a movement that effectively began with violent riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969.
“This is the beginning of a vision of what it means to live in a nation and a state that says we value one another as equals,” said Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.