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SFGate.com

 

May 29, 2008

 

Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer

 

 

Same-sex weddings rescheduled for June 17

 

 

Dozens of same-sex couples planning to marry in San Francisco will have to reschedule their weddings after the state Office of Vital Records decided Wednesday that gays and lesbians can legally marry in California beginning June 17.

 

That's one day after many had assumed the California Supreme Court's decision granting marriage rights to same-sex couples would take effect. Forty-four same-sex couples had made appointments for June 16 with the San Francisco County clerk, according to Karen Hong, director of the clerk's office.

 

"This is the letter we've all been waiting for," said Hong, referring to the communique from the state informing clerks of the date.

 

The Supreme Court's decision takes effect 30 days after the ruling, at the close of business on June 16. State officials said they wanted to wait until the end of the waiting period before marrying the same-sex couples.

 

Also on Wednesday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office and organizations representing same-sex couples filed counterarguments to a request to delay the weddings until after the November election. Groups opposed to same-sex marriage requested the delay last week, arguing that the voters in the fall almost certainly will decide the fate of a proposed amendment to the California Constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

 

A Field Poll released Wednesday, however, showed that most voters do not support such a measure. According to the poll of registered voters, 51 percent said they believed same-sex marriage should be legal in California.

 

Herrera argued in the filing that the court should not wait for the vote: "To deny this fundamental right to same-sex couples based on speculation about what might happen in November would not merely be inappropriate. It would be inhumane."

 

As of Tuesday morning, 623 same-sex couples had booked appointments to get a marriage license at San Francisco City Hall in the 90 days after June 16, Hong said. Most Bay Area counties operate on a first-come, first-served basis for marriage licenses but schedule actual wedding ceremonies.

 

In Marin County, six same-sex couples had scheduled ceremonies, three of them on June 16, according to the county clerk. Two couples in San Mateo County had scheduled ceremonies for that date. And in Santa Clara County, one couple is scheduled to marry on June 17 and another in July, according to the county clerk's office.

 

The San Francisco County clerk's office plans to allow couples scheduled to wed on the 16th to do so on the 17th or a later date if they prefer.

 

Along with setting a date for marriages to commence - barring any further legal developments - the state also announced that marriage applications and licenses would change from listing "Groom" and "Bride" to listing "Partner A" and "Partner B."

 

San Francisco couple John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney were on the steps of the Supreme Court building when the marriage decision came down at 10 a.m. May 15 and said friends and family have asked only one question since that moment.

 

"At 10:04 a.m., I got a call from my mother, and she said, 'When's the wedding?' What a wonderful thing to be contemplating - when's the wedding?" Gaffney said.

The couple had one of 44 appointments to marry at City Hall June 16 but said they would have no problem rescheduling their wedding.

 

"We have been together 21 years waiting for this day, and we will wait one more day if that is necessary," Lewis said.

 

Officials in San Francisco said they planned to commemorate the first day of weddings but had not decided on anything specific.

 

There is a chance the weddings might not happen, however, as the Supreme Court is considering the request to put its decision on hold until November. The request came from attorneys with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, representing the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund. The voter-approved Prop. 22, also known as the Knight Initiative, defined marriage as between a man and a woman in 2000 but did not write the definition into the state Constitution.

 

An attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund said the request is "in the interest of everyone in California."

 

As for any other action the organization might take, "This is really the opportunity," said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel.

 

But Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented couples in the case, said that the organization has no standing to make such a request and that only the governor or attorney general could do so.

 

"I would be very surprised if the court granted any stay," said Minter, whose organization also made a court filing Tuesday. Herrera also argued that the group was not a party to the case and had no standing to make such a request.

 

Planned weddings

 

Hundreds of same-sex couples have made wedding appointments in the Bay Area, but most plan to exchange vows in San Francisco. Here's a breakdown of appointments based on data obtained Wednesday:

 

San Francisco: 623

Marin County: 6

Santa Clara County: 2

San Mateo County: 2

Alameda County: The county does not take reservations.

E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at wbuchanan@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle