It’s official: The U.S. Supreme Court has made same-sex marriage a reality in California. The justices dismissed 5-4 an appeal Wednesday by sponsors of Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on gay marriage, and ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as opposite-sex couples.
Same-sex couples and advocates of gay marriage around the Bay Area celebrated the historic victory after word came in early this morning, and after years of uncertainty about whether or not their unions would be recognized as equal to those of straight couples.
“It feels good to have love triumph over ignorance,” announced San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, as cheers erupted from a crowd of more than 100 people gathered at San Francisco City Hall. Lee then introduced state Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco.
“San Francisco is not a city of dreamers, but a city of doers,” said Newsom, who, after opposing the law in 2004, issued the first marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Jewelle Gomez, 64, and her wife Diane Sabin, 61, were married at San Francisco’s public library in 2008, after being engaged for 17 years. Today at City Hall, they were thrilled to hear that their marriage would stand legally. “I put my waterproof mascara on this morning, because I knew I would be crying,” Gomez said.
Tears were plentiful, and people embraced, raised their fists in victory and waved rainbow flags high into the sky.
Renata Moreira, 36, and her partner Lori Bilella, 30, kissed after the rulings were announced. “Victories like this make clear that we are moving in the right direction,” said Bilella. “We are going to be able to share our weddings with our grandmas. Not civil unions, but weddings!”
One couple arrived dressed in wedding attire. Lisa Dazols wore a white shirt, black vest and purple tie. Her partner, Jenny Chang, wore a wedding dress and veil. Planning to get married “as soon as we can,” the couple held each other’s hands tightly and smiled for the media.
Across the Bay in Oakland, things were quieter when it came to expressing emotions over the decisions. Oaklanders in downtown cafes said that they were happy the high court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop. 8, but they had differing views on the institution of marriage in general.
At Awaken Cafe on 14th Street and Telegraph Avenue, dozens of people kept checking emails and news feeds to see how others were reacting to the rulings.
Sean, who declined to give his last name, stopped in for a cup of tea. A 33-year-old software engineer, he was happy to hear the news. “It seems pretty clearly discriminatory these days,” he said of the way same-sex unions were treated before today. “If you allow marriage, you have to allow all the rights of marriage. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
Doug Atkinson, a 29-year-old personal injury lawyer, agreed about discrimination. “I fight for the little guy all the time,” he said. “So I always support any group that’s being discriminated against.” Atkinson said that people have religious beliefs about marriage, but that it’s wrong for the government to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. “I’m a member of the church myself,” he said. “But our church supports gay marriage.”
The whole concept of marriage has been flawed all along, said J. Choi. “For me, the issue doesn’t seem to be about the marriage institution per se,” he said. “Just more about hate and prejudice.” So he doesn’t feel like celebrating. “I don’t feel like, ‘Oh, hurray’ – it just feels so tainted,” he said.
In Richmond, Brian Villa, who works with youth, felt that although the rulings are a victory worth celebrating, there’s still a lot more work to be done.
“You know, this is a big win and sometimes we just need to stop and celebrate triumphs and successes. It’s a good day. I know there will be a lot of celebrating,” he said. “But, I think the struggle still continues. The main issue that we need to focus on is paying attention to youth and paying attention to their safety.”
At Tuesday night’s Richmond City Council meeting, councilmembers proclaimed June as Pride month for the city. Earlier this month, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin raised the rainbow flag outside City Hall to celebrate but met some opposition from faith-based groups and individuals who, in emails to the city, called the flag “pro-homosexual.”
In the emails, residents asked the mayor to take the flag down.
As of Wednesday, the flag still stood, but Villa said the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community still feels unsafe.
“In Richmond I talked to my LGTB members and asked them if they wanted to go to this year’s pride month city council meeting and they said, ‘You know, we don’t want to go if we are going to be targeted,’” Villa said.
Last year, LGBTQ community members attended the Pride month city council meeting and were met with threats and anti-gay slurs, Villa said.
“What does that say when the city council can’t even create a safe place for youth to advocate for their voice? Last year during Pride month, people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s an abomination, quoting the Bible,’” Villa said. “At the city council meeting one person laughed when a youth that committed suicide was brought up. He laughed. People had to be escorted out,” he added.
At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, LGBTQ members who attended the meeting said they faced vocal opposition from the crowd again. But they were also praised for a presentation they did on an anti-bullying campaign to help stop bullying of queer youth.
Although some people in San Francisco admitted that there was still a lot of work to be done, as of Wednesday afternoon celebrations were brewing. “Tonight is going to be wild,” said Safiya Delaney, who arrived in the Castro at 6:30 a.m. to hear the news. “I can’t wait.”