In Wake of Supreme Court Marriage Decisions, Gay-Rights Mecca Braces for Celebration

SAN FRANCISCO – The city where the battle for marriage equality in California began in 2004 is bracing for massive celebrations in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings involving same-sex marriage on Wednesday.

In  a 5-4 decision in Windsor v. United States, the court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the majority ruling that Section 3 of the 1996 law -- which denied federal recognition and benefits to same-sex couples married under state law -- is unconstitutional.

In a subsequent 5-4 decision, the court dismissed the second same-sex-marriage case, Hollingsworth v. Perry -- dealing with whether or not marriage rights can be removed by a vote of the people. The majority argued the coalition of anti-marriage-equality advocates did not have standing to appeal a broad trial court decision from 2010, which found that California's Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

At 9:45 a.m. local time, about 25 advocates gathered at the corner of Market and Castro streets in the Castro District, San Francisco's historically gay neighborhood, to celebrate the decisions, both of which represent victories for LGBT Americans. Cars and trucks honked as they passed by the celebrators, to show support. One couple got engaged at the event and carried a sign, “Just engaged.”

Activists and city leaders are planning a rally and celebration in the Castro Wednesday night at 6 p.m. local time.

While the Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 will ultimately clear the way for same-sex couples to marry once again in California, Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. has issued a statement saying that licenses cannot be issued until the original federal district court lifts the order that stayed enforcement of the 2010 ruling.

“After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California," Brown said in a statement. "In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”

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Activists celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage in San Francisco Wednesday morning, June 26, 2013 (THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Todd Heywood)