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May 16, 2008

 

Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

 

 

No California gay marriages until mid-June

 

 

Begin scouring gift registries and buying Champagne: June 16 could be a big day for Bay Area weddings.

 

Twenty minutes after the California Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that same-sex marriages are legal in the state, a few dozen couples began showing up at the county clerk's office in San Francisco's City Hall hoping to get married then and there.

 

The couples waited in line to tie the knot, some clutching bouquets, some tearing up and a lesbian lawyer highlighting her favorite parts of the inch-thick court decision. Deena Lahn, 48, and Mary Schroeder, 45, rushed from their home in the Mission after reading the news online. "I said, 'Let's go! Let's go see if we can get married!' " Lahn said. They could not, at least for now. The court's decision doesn't go into effect for at least 30 days, and maybe longer.

 

Karen Hong, director of the San Francisco County clerk's office, allowed couples to make appointments starting June 16 but warned they might have to reschedule if the matter isn't worked out by then. She told them that anyone who was married at City Hall in February 2004 would need to get married again because those licenses, nullified by court order six months later, remain invalid.

 

That was OK with Andrew Nance, 42, who married Jim Maloney, 47, four years ago and plans do so again over Gay Pride weekend. So which will be their anniversary date? "Oh my god, we'll have like four of them," Nance said. "Our domestic partnership day, the day we first met, our first wedding date. I guess why not celebrate all of them?"

 

After calling mothers and sisters and consulting their calendars, most couples scrambled to get a spot on the very first day available. By the end of the day in San Francisco, June 16 and 20 were booked and the days in between were filling up.

 

Kris Hill and Karen Stodgill have an appointment for 8:15 a.m. June 16 and another at 10 a.m. the same day to actually get hitched inside City Hall. (Couples receiving their marriage licenses can marry wherever they like as long as they do so within 90 days.)

 

The Berkeley couple were living in Washington, D.C., in 2004 and had purchased their plane tickets to San Francisco to marry when the court ordered the weddings to stop.

 

This time, they weren't going to be late. After hearing the news on the car radio, Hill suggested they drive straight to City Hall.

 

"I said, 'But I'm not dressed for it,' and she said, 'That's OK, you're the one I want to marry,' " Stodgill said. It was love spurring them on - but also the historic moment. "It's like we're not second-class citizens in California anymore," Hill said. "It's like we get to drink at the same water fountain now."

 

While same-sex couples flocked to San Francisco's City Hall, clerks in other Bay Area counties handled a smattering of phone inquiries but did not see a big rush at their counters. More than an hour after the ruling, no one was in line for a marriage license at the San Mateo County clerk's office in Redwood City.

 

"I think everybody's out at the beach," one clerk said.

 

In Sonoma County, couples who called were OK with hearing they'd have to wait at least 30 days, said clerk Janice Atkinson.

 

"They're saying, 'We've waited this long, we can wait a little longer,' " she said. "I'm just looking forward to the day we can get started."

 

Clerks were waiting for the state's Office of Vital Records to update the current marriage license form, which now has spaces for the "bride" and "groom." It's unclear whether the office will create a gender-neutral form for all couples, a separate form for same-sex couples or stick with the current format.

 

"We're taking a look at all of that now," said Suanne Buggy, spokeswoman for the state office. "We are evaluating the steps needed to comply with the court's ruling, and we will be sending guidance out to the counties."

 

At least one county clerk knows where he'll be the day couples can marry: at the front of his own line. Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir said he plans to be first in line when same-sex licenses become available.

 

"I'm now a 19-year domestic partner, and I'll be the first in my county," he said.

 

Civil wedding ceremonies

 

For information on receiving a marriage license or booking a civil ceremony at county clerks' offices:

 

-- San Francisco: www.sfgov.org/countyclerk

 

-- Alameda County: links.sfgate.com/ZDJM

 

-- Contra Costa County: links.sfgate.com/ZDJN

 

-- Marin County: links.sfgate.com/ZDJO

 

-- San Mateo County: links.sfgate.com/ZDJP Chronicle staff writers Charles Burress, Carolyn Jones and John Coté contributed to this report. E-mail Heather Knight at hknight@sfchronicle.com.