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2,500 gay couples rush to wed, rulings seen
Updated: 2004-02-18 08:48

Conservative family groups asked two courts on Tuesday to halt a flood of City Hall weddings between same-sex couples that have made San Francisco "Ground Zero" for the controversial gay marriage movement.

The city's assessor-record's office said that about 2,500 gay and lesbian couples have been married since Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to defy state law and grant same-sex marriage licenses last Thursday.

A gay couple kiss as they get married at City Hall in San Francisco, California, February 17, 2004. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples lined up at City Hall to obtain marriage licenses as lawyers across the street in San Francisco Superior Court will begin debating the validity of the same-sex marriages. [Reuters]

The bulk of those licenses came over the Valentine's Day weekend when City Hall remained open so that more couples could exchange wedding vows.

Many city workers volunteered without pay and scores of others helped to meet the demand for same-sex marriages licenses from couples who flew in from across the nation and even Europe to form lines several blocks long and patiently wait their turn to say "I do."

The pace slowed on Tuesday as City workers attended to other duties but officials said same sex weddings with couples pledging to be "spouses for life" would continue until the courts ruled otherwise.

Newsom decided to lift the ban on same-sex marriages on the grounds that homosexuals have the right to wed under the state's equal protection clause.

But the move defied a state law, known as Proposition 22 and approved in 2000 by California voters, that restricted marriage only to heterosexual couples. The measure passed with support from about 60 percent of those who voted on the initiative.

California Superior Court Judge James Warren refused to grant the Alliance Defense Fund a temporary restraining order last week to stop the weddings but scheduled a new hearing on the issue for Tuesday afternoon. In addition, another judge will hear a petition brought by a different group on Tuesday.

The anti-gay marriage groups are seeking to have a court invalidate the marriages that have already taken place.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Robert Tyler says San Francisco violated state law and created "municipal anarchy" by granting same-sex marriage licenses.

Tyler added San Francisco could have challenged Proposition 22 by first filing a lawsuit rather than moving on its own without any court action.

Same-sex marriage has become a hot-button issue in this election year, with opponents like U.S. President Bush saying it would destroy the institution of marriage.

No state, including California, allows gay marriage although Massachusetts is currently debating whether to overturn a landmark state supreme court ruling allowing such unions.

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