City Hall in San Francisco erupted in cheers early Wednesday as the nation finally heard from the highest court in the land on California's Prop 8 initiative.
The ruling was not a total victory for same-sex marriage supporters. While it cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California, the justices stopped short of legalizing it for the entire nation. Many activists had hoped the court would strike down bans on gay marriage across the country as unconstitutional.
In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.
SaveCalifornia.com said it was saddened and disappointed by the ruling. Spokesman Randy Thomasson said sexual behavior does not constitute a civil right.
"Because the high court didn't care about protecting natural marriage or even the initiative process, they have allowed unnatural, homosexual 'marriages' to resume in California as role models for children," Thomasson said. "Today, marriage, children, and the rule of law all suffer."
"While it is unfortunate that the court's ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court's order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable,'' said Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the ban's supporters.
Thomasson and Pugno were among the very few to publicly refute the ruling.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was among the many to applaud it. He opened the doors of City Hall at 6:30 a.m. so that people could come and watch it come down together in the Rotunda. Hundreds of people turned out.
Following the ruling, Mayor Lee and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom held a joint news conference on the rotunda steps to the cheers of the gathered crowd.
They claimed victory after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling left in place a trial court's declaration that California's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
"The United States Supreme Court today has taken a historic step toward guaranteeing marriage equality for every Californian and protecting millions of California families, choosing hope and love over ignorance and discrimination" Lee said.
Newsom declared San Francisco a city of "doers." He said it not only tolerates diversity, but celebrates it every day. He called Wednesday a special day.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the ruling a great victory. He said people criticized the city in 2004 when it began to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, saying it was moving too fast in granting marriage licenses. But he said he believes the only way to get things done is to "kick down the door.''
The dawn gathering at city hall is the first of many scheduled throughout the day and throughout the Bay Area.
The largest event on what is being dubbed "decision day" will happen at Castro and Market streets in San Francisco's Castro District starting at 6:30 p.m. Thousands of people are expected.
This is Gay Pride Week in the City, with a million people expected this weekend. Many of them are arriving early now that the high court's decision is pending.
The Castro event will include two stages for music and speeches.
Barricades went up in the Castro Tuesday afternoon.
Evan Costner, who organized the annual Berkeley Pride celebration that took place Monday night, told Bay City News a contingent from Berkeley is ready to "flock to San Francisco and rally there."
In other parts of the Bay Area, various groups made plans to spring into action once they heard the ruling, including the local LGBT activist group Hearts on Silicon Valley, which will meet at San Jose City Hall at 6 p.m.
Oakland community groups have plans for a celebration at 5:30 p.m. at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue, with participants convening at that intersection before moving on to dance parties at nearby bars and clubs.
In Concord, a 6:30 p.m. celebration complete with champagne is planned at the Rainbow Community Center, located at 2118 Willow Pass Road.
Other events are in the works in Mountain View, Redwood City, Santa Cruz, Vallejo, Fairfield, Guerneville and Healdsburg.
One thing that won't happen Wednesday is a same-sex marriage ceremony. Even though the justices ruled in favor of gay rights, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has estimated that same-sex weddings wouldn't resume until late July. The case will have a 25-day period for sponsors to ask the high court to reconsider the case.
Attorney General Kamala Harris asked the court to immediately lift the stay, but it refused saying that it would be at least 25 day before the stay would be lifted.