The U.S. Supreme Court's historic decisions on same-sex marriage on Wednesday - which included declining to rule on California's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, on technical grounds - leave California poised to become the 13th state where gays and lesbians can legally marry.
From Los Angeles to San Francisco to Sacramento and beyond, the state's gay and lesbian community celebrated the court's decisions as a victory.
As the day progressed, in the heart of midtown Sacramento outside the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center on L Street, a bride-to-be in full wedding garb waved a sign, "Available Now!" A young man sported a T-shirt that read, "Dudes Marry Dudes. Get Over It." Motorists honked their horns in support.
But opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to press their fight.
What form that might take in California was unclear. Folsom attorney Andrew Pugno, author of Proposition 8, the 2008 measure than banned same-sex marriage in California, said in a telephone news conference that his legal team is assessing options for future litigation.
"I realize that's not what many of you would like to hear," he said. "But we won't know for some time, because we're analyzing this."
Even so, gay marriage advocates and many legal experts agreed that the court's actions Wednesday in all likelihood have paved the way for same-sex marriage in California.
The state was on the cutting edge of cultural change in 2004, when gay marriages were briefly allowed in San Francisco. Then came Proposition 8 and an ensuing five-year legal battle.
"California has been a leader in protecting civil rights in the LGBT community in every area except marriage rights," said David Codell, legal director of the UCLA Law School's Williams Institute, which researches gender identity law.
"But we were in the forefront. Proposition 8 will ultimately be seen as a temporary but grievous blight on California's record of protecting LGBT people."
Observers consider the court's ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act - which denied same-sex couples federal benefits - both sweeping and clear. Led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court decided it was unconstitutional for the federal government to deny benefits to same-sex couples who have been legally married in states that allow gay marriage.
In contrast, the immediate impact in California on the court's refusal to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is not as straightforward.
Starting with the Schwarzenegger administration, state officials refused to defend Proposition 8 in court. In stepped Pugno, lead counsel Charles Cooper and co-counsel Austin Nimocks of Alliance Defending Freedom, who unsuccessfully argued the case in lower federal courts before appealing to the Supreme Court.
The court on Wednesday held that they were not legally entitled to do so.
Pugno and his team have 25 days to ask for an appeal. They insist that because the court effectively voided the appellate decision, California is required to enforce Proposition 8.
"California law requires the state to enforce the proposition until a federal appellate ruling declares Proposition 8 unconstitutional," said Pugno, "and there is no appellate decision now."
Several legal experts interviewed took issue with that view, noting the courts have consistently rejected that argument: They said the law in question applies only to voter-approved statutes, not constitutional measures such as Proposition 8.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown told California's 58 counties to prepare to issue marriage licenses as soon as a federal appeals court stay on same-sex marriage, in effect while Proposition 8 proponents fought the case to the Supreme Court, is lifted.
But questions remained. What if individual county officials don't want to perform same-sex marriages? Said Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Twitter: "If a California county decides to violate the law and not enforce this injunction, California will take legal action."
Other legal observers raised the possibility that a 2010 federal district court ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional might apply only to a handful of couples in two counties.
"The other side will try to make that argument, and they'll lose," said McGeorge School of Law professor Larry Levine. "Are we really going to go through this again? The AG's office will interpret (the federal district court) decision as gays and lesbians being able to marry. There will be some litigation. The other side can delay it, but not for long."