San Francisco — Dozens of gay couples were married Monday after a landmark ruling making California the second state to allow same-sex nuptials went into effect.
At least five county clerks around the state extended their hours to issue marriage licenses, and many same-sex couples got married on the spot.
"These are not folks who just met each other last week and said, 'Let's get married.' These are folks who have been together in some cases for decades," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
The May 15 California Supreme Court ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage took effect at 5:01 p.m.
The really big rush to the altar was not expected to take place until today, which is when most counties planned to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of couples from around the country are expected to seize the opportunity to make their unions official in the eyes of the law.
In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, who helped launch the series of lawsuits that led the court to strike down California's one-man-one-woman marriage laws, presided at the wedding of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83.
Newsom picked the couple for the only ceremony in City Hall Monday in recognition of their long relationship and their status as pioneers of the gay rights movement. More than 600 same-sex couples have made appointments to get marriage licenses in San Francisco over the next 10 days.
Martin sat in her wheelchair during the ceremony in Newsom's office, which was open to a few elected officials, reporters and friends.
After the mayor pronounced them "spouses for life," the couple kissed, drawing huge applause.
Newsom called officiating the wedding "this extraordinary and humbling gift."
Meanwhile outside City Hall, a crowd of well-wishers gathered to wish the happy couple congratulations.
A handful of people opposed to gay marriage were also there. Some held signs with statements including "Jesus said go and sin no more."
Just hours before the ruling went into effect, a conservative legal group asked a Sacramento court to order the California agency that oversees marriages to stop issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses.
Gary Kreep of the San Diego County-based United States Justice Foundation said his group filed a petition on behalf of five county supervisors from Yuba, Stanislaus, Nevada and Sutter counties. The petition argues the state Department of Public Health failed to hold legally required public hearings on the licenses and claims legislators must amend state marriage laws before the licenses are valid.
A hearing on the matter was scheduled for today.