June 29, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Prop 8 plaintiffs lead Calif. couples in tying the knot
Attorney General Kamala Harris marries Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (Blade screenshot by Chris Johnson)

Attorney General Kamala Harris marries Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (Blade screenshot by Chris Johnson)

The jubilation following two Supreme Court decisions in favor of marriage equality continued on Friday as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 became the first in the Golden State to marry after the demise of the ban on same-sex marriage.

The lesbian couple in lawsuit — Kris Perry and Sandra Stier — was first to marry in California and did so at 4:45 pm in a San Francisco City Hall ceremony officiated by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Shortly thereafter at 6:15 pm, the gay male couple — Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — married in Los Angeles in a ceremony over which Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiated during his last day in office.

During the ceremony for Perry and Stier, Harris noted the long road on which the couple had journeyed since they filed their lawsuit in 2009 to restore marriage equality to California. Their son, Elliott Perry, served as a witness.

“Four years ago, Kris and Sandy embarked upon a journey that most couples do not experience,” Harris said. “By joining the case against Proposition 8, they represented thousands of couples like themselves in the fight for marriage equality.”

San Francisco City Hall stayed open until 8 pm to issue marriage licenses and will reopen from 9 am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday while the city celebrates June as Pride month.

Same-sex weddings resumed in California in the same city hall where nearly a decade ago then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom jump started the marriage equality movement by handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the court ordered him to stop.

The weddings were able to commence in California thanks to the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals lifting its stay on the injunction that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker put in place in 2010 prohibiting the enforcement of Prop 8. The lifting of stay was the consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court determination that anti-gay groups lack standing to defend Prop 8 in court.

In between the ceremonies for lesbian and the gay male couple, the plaintiffs held a conference call with reporters to talk about the jubilation they felt over finally being able to marry. They were joined by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and American Foundation for Equal Rights attorney Ted Boutrous.

Griffin said “we are all more American” on the day marriage equality resumed in California and emphasized gay nuptials in the Golden State are here to stay.

“Marriage has finally returned to the great state of California, and no one — no judge, no election and no politician — can take it away,” Griffin said.

Asked by the Washington Blade how it feels to finally be married after the completion of the lawsuit, Perry said she needs to wait until tomorrow for it to register.

“Right now, we feel victorious and thrilled and relieved, really, to be at the end of this long journey, and now finally able to move forward as a regular married couple just like everybody else,” Perry said.

Katami said he doesn’t much more to add as he prepared for his wedding ceremony, but noted the feeling of finally being able to marry was satisfying.

“I can tell you this: equal feels different,” Katami said. “We woke up on Thursday and this morning feeling like full citizens that will be recognized by our state, and recognized by our federal government. And we know that in just a few short minutes, Jeff and I will be able to call each other husband officially.”

In response to a question on whether plaintiffs received any advanced notice that the Ninth Circuit would lift its stay, advocates said on the call they had none but were nonetheless ready to spring into action when it happened.

But amid the excitement, anti-gay forces cried foul over what they said was a breach of protocol by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in lifting the stay prematurely.

Legal observers had said they had a 25-day waiting period after the Supreme Court ruling in which proponents of Prop 8 could file for reconsideration. Even so, reconsideration is either rarely granted or never happens.

Andrew Pugno, an attorney with ProtectMarriage.com, posted a statement called the lifting of the stay an “outrageous act” and said the resumption of same-sex marriage has been obtained “by illegitimate means.”

“Homosexual marriage is not happening because the people changed their mind,” Pugno said. “It isn’t happening because the appellate courts declared a new constitutional right. It’s happening because enemies of the people have abused their power to manipulate the system and render the people voiceless.”

It’s unclear what recourse, if any, anti-gay forces have to fight the lifting of the stay after the Supreme Court determined they lack standing in court. Pugno said “it remains to be seen whether the fight can go on” as he said the development made for “a disgraceful day.”

LGBT advocates strongly pushed back on the notion that anti-gay forces had more options.

Asked by the Blade about this concern, Boutrous said Ninth Circuit “quite correctly” viewed itself as having the power to lift the stay and is “totally authorized by the court’s rules and by federal rules.”

“We’ve had cases where courts have lifted the stay in much more boring cases than this one,” Boutrous said. “And it makes sense here because you look at the possibility of success for the other side: it’s zero.”

Asked by another reporter if the Supreme Court or en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit could issue a stay if Prop 8 proponents asked for one during the 25-day waiting period, Boutrous said “no” because the high court determined the Ninth Circuit has no jurisdiction in the case.

Boutrous also dismissed another question on whether Prop 8 proponents could take action in state court, noting the federal injunction against Prop 8 would trump anything from state judges.

Those on the call also had no comment on what would happen if certain counties refused to hand marriage licenses to gay couples, referring a question on the matter from Reuters to the attorney general’s office.

The reaction from Stier was more mirthful in response to a question on what plans she and Perry had for a honeymoon.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to plan one, as you might well imagine, because we were at work when we found out we could get married today,” Stier said. “But next on our order of things to plan are a celebration, which means a reception, and then we need a honeymoon.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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