Same-sex couples rushed to San Francisco's City Hall on Friday to be legally married after an appeals court officially ended California's ban on gay marriage following a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court this week.
On a balcony overlooking the grand staircase at City Hall, an ornate space that has long been a magnet for couples seeking to get married, the couple whose case sparked this week's Supreme Court decision exchanged vows in a ceremony officiated by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
"This is really a great day," said Sandy Stier, who with her fiancee Kristin Perry filed the lawsuit against Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California in 2008.
Four hundred miles to the south, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a second couple who were plaintiffs in the case, set their own ceremony for 6 p.m. at City Hall in Los Angeles.
The marriages, delayed five years after a voter-approved initiative banned gay marriage in the state, were allowed to go forward after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down the ban on Wednesday.
California, which briefly allowed marriages in 2008, now becomes the 13th state, and the largest, to allow gay marriage.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had been expected to wait 25 days before lifting the injunction so the Supreme Court would have time to release a formal order. But the judges decided to act instead on Friday, a move that would allow the marriages to begin in advance of Gay Pride weekend.
"The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately," the court said in its ruling.
Within moments of the ruling, couples, officials and activists began to converge on San Francisco City Hall, where unions were due to resume immediately.
"On my way to S.F. City Hall," tweeted Harris. "Let the wedding bells ring!"
Harris arrived with her arm around a key backer in the case, as Stier and Perry waited eagerly for their marriage license to be issued.
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