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  • Jeff Chiu / AP

    California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, speaks in front of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, foreground second from left, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California at the mayor's office at City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

  • Noah Berger / AP

    Sue Rochman, left, and Robin Romdalvik kiss, reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage in California, at San Francisco's City Hall on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The couple, accompanied by their son Maddox Rochman-Romdalvik.

San Franciscans express joy over Prop. 8 outcome

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 - 9:40 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 - 12:09 pm

SAN FRANCISCO - The mood at City Hall this morning is one of jubilation and relief as hundreds of Proposition 8 opponents celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling on the controversial measure.

Cheers, thundering applause and tears broke out as news came over that same-sex marriages may soon be able to resume in California - and that the federal government must now recognize the rights of those married.

“I just have to say I’m overwhelmed,” said San Francisco resident John Lewis, who, with his spouse Stuart Gaffney, leaders in the fight against Proposition 8. “It was bedlam here in San Francisco City Hall. People are so excited.”

More than 500 gay rights supporters packed into the rotunda, where the air was electric with anticipation in the minutes before the ruling was announced. The crowd watched as two screens - one showing CNN and the other the Supreme Court blog - dispatched news from the high court.

Initial excitement about the court’s ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional quickly gave way to anxiety as people awaited word about Proposition 8. When the announcement was made, the crowd erupted. The applause continued as icons of the gay rights movement - including Lewis, Gaffney and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom - descended the stairs in the rotunda.

“Welcome to the people’s house of San Francisco!” boomed Mayor Edwin Lee, who was at times drowned out by the crowd. “Historic!”

Lee ushered Newsom, who as the city's mayor helped lead the push for gay marriage in California, to the podium. He was interrupted by shouts of, "We love you Gavin!"

“If you love the city, you do what’s right, no matter what the consequences are,” Lee said. “That’s what Gavin Newsom has done.”

Newsom said his city has prided itself on being on the “cutting edge.” “It’s not a city of dreamers, but a city of doers,” he said. “We don’t just tolerate diversity, we celebrate our diversity.”

Newsom spoke of the courage and resolve of people who have fought for gay rights, including Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the first same-sex couple legally married by Newsom in 2008. Martin died later that year, but Lyon was present at this morning’s celebration, ushered into the rotunda by the former and current mayors.

“They didn’t wait for permission,” Newsom said of leaders like Lyon, Martin, Lewis and Gaffney. “They stepped up.”

After the speeches stopped and audience members were left to hug and snap photos, 24-year-old Christabel Breen appeared starstruck, half-whispering after Lyon, “We love you, Phyllis!”

Breen and roommate Ashley Green, also 24, said they look up to Lyon and others who forged the way for gays and lesbians. “Our generation is forever indebted to her,” Breen said.

“I can’t stop crying,” said Green.

Nearby, Daniel Carrasco had been trying to take a cell phone photo of friend Luis Canales leaping for joy in the rotunda. The photo didn’t quite work out, but their enthusiasm couldn’t be dampened.

Canales said he grew up in a Mormon family that fought against gay rights. He said his family would put lawn signs up blasting the gay community, and a 14-year-old Canales, not yet out to his family, would sneak out at night and throw them away.

“I’ve literally been fighting since then,” said Canales, now 27.

A celebration of the court’s rulings is planned for this evening in the Castro district.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Kim Minugh

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