SAN FRANCISCO -- Hundreds of people gathered yesterday to honor San Francisco's newly married same-sex couples as politicians continued to debate whether the mayor overstepped his authority in allowing the weddings.
About 2,000 people registered to attend the celebration at the Hyatt Regency Hotel's Grand Ballroom, which was decorated with purple and white balloons. Well-dressed couples wore heart-shaped red, white, and blue stickers that said "Freedom to Marry."
The marriage of Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79 -- longtime leaders in the city's lesbian community who have been together 51 years -- was the focal point of the celebration. They were the first of more than 3,000 gay couples married in the wave of weddings in San Francisco that began Feb. 12.
City Hall was closed yesterday, but city officials were expected to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses today, despite protests from conservative groups and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Two judges last week denied requests by conservative groups to immediately halt same-sex marriages in the city and to find the licenses already issued invalid.Schwarzenegger has directed state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to take action and stop the marriages, which were authorized by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
The governor said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" news program: "Maybe the next thing is another city that hands out licenses for assault weapons and someone else hands out licenses for selling drugs. I mean, you can't do that. "There's a state law that says specific things, and if you want to challenge those laws, then you can go to the court."
San Francisco has sued the state, saying the gay marriage ban violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.
Newsom said on CNN's "Late Edition" that there was no basis for comparing laws on gay marriage to gun control: "It's not about AK-47s. It's not about these other hypotheticals. It's about human beings. It's about human dignity. . . . It's about, I think, holding truth, faith, and allegiance to the constitution."
Lockyer, a Democrat who may run against Schwarzenegger in 2006, said yesterday that he will defend state law against San Francisco's lawsuit, but bristled at the idea that Schwarzenegger can tell him what to do. The governor can direct some parts of state government, such as the California Highway Patrol, "but he can't direct an independently elected attorney general," Lockyer said in an interview.
Lockyer added that he does not expect San Francisco's challenge of the state's gay-marriage ban to succeed: "We are obligated to defend the law, not some wished-for change in policy."