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Same-sex couples in San Francisco mark third anniversary of marriage licenses

Same-sex marriage champion Mayor Gavin Newsom received adulatory
applause at San Francisco City Hall today, the 3rd anniversary
of same-sex marriage license issuance.
Photos by Pia Torelli

By Lara Moscrip, Bay City News Service

February 12, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Three same-sex couples who traveled to San Francisco City Hall three years ago today for marriage certificates returned to the site of their nuptials this morning to share their stories in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Although a state appeals court in San Francisco ruled in October that same-sex couples do not have a right to marry in California, the couples gathered to express what their marriages, or their attempts to marry, meant to them personally as well as legally. The couples are among 11 couples taking part of the lawsuit that will be heard by the California Supreme Court this spring, according to the mayor's office.

John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney were married Feb. 12, 2004 in San Francisco and plan to celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. Lewis held up their now-void marriage certificate and said, "We want to get that joy, to get that dignity back."

Pali Cooper and Jeanne Rizzo of Marin County have been a couple for 15 years and had an appointment at City Hall three years ago in March to get married. Surrounded by friends, family and their son, they approached the counter and noticed a sign, alerting them that the California Supreme Court had just issued a stay to halt same-sex marriages in the city.

Both Cooper and Rizzo said their family members shared in their shock and sadness of being turned away.

Kate Kendell, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said that she hopes the issue will be decided this year. The NCLR filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 11 same-sex couples March 12, 2004, the day after the California Supreme Court forced the city to stop issuing marriage licenses. San Francisco issued more than 4,000 marriage licenses in February and March of 2004, Kendell said.

According to Kendell, the NCLR will file its brief with the court March 19 and expects oral arguments to take place before the court this spring, with a ruling expected in the first half of 2008.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he has no regrets with his decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and notes that despite the legal set back in October, "even when we've lost, we've lost with dissent."

Newsom said he hopes that the California Supreme Court will strictly interpret the state's constitution to reach its decision regarding same-sex marriage. He says that President George W. Bush served as an indirect source of inspiration for his decision three years ago to issue marriage licenses.

"There's a reason Bush wanted to change the Constitution, he was worried the Constitution was too fair," Newsom said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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