Court refuses to delay start of same-sex marriages until November

A legal effort to delay same-sex weddings until November, when a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman goes before voters, was rejected by the state’s highest court, leaving the aisle open for weddings to take place statewide June 17.

In San Francisco, happy hour for gay and lesbian couples could start sooner — when the clock strikes 5 p.m. on June 16.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that city officials are looking to extend the hours of the Office of the County Clerk beyond 5 p.m. — it currently closes at 4 p.m. — on that date in order to marry same-sex couples as soon as possible.

On Monday, the California Secretary of State announced that a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages had received enough valid signatures to place it on the general election ballot. The amendment is backed by the same conservative groups that fought the legal battle against The City and gay and lesbian advocacy groups.

But the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Wednesday — along the same lines it ruled that a gay marriage ban violated the state constitution — that its decision should not be delayed. It further specified that the decision becomes final on June 16 at 5 p.m.

Glen Lavy, senior attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, said same-sex couples are “manipulating the democratic process” and partnering with judicial activists.

“[The court] has inflicted years of legal chaos quite possibly on the entire country,” Lavy said in a written statement.

Newsom said the Clerk’s Office would “unquestionably” be open beyond 5 p.m.

“People have longed for this for 30 to 40 years,” he said. “I don’t think we should deny that just on the basis of a bureaucratic timeline.”

Hundreds of same-sex couples have registered to obtain marriage licenses, and City Hall marriage ceremonies are booked through July 15 with the majority of those for gay weddings, according to the County Clerk’s Office.

Right now the main focus of marrying same-sex couples on June 16 is providing enough staff to the Clerk’s Office and enough funding to support the onslaught of appointments and ceremonies, Newsom said.

He said that he is hoping for volunteers, which helped in 2004 when he authorized same-sex marriages.

“A lot of people want to be deputized,” he said.

dsmith@sfexaminer.com

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