San Francisco, city at the vanguard of the gay rights fight, celebrates marriage ruling

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, center, speaks at a news conference outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, center, speaks at a news conference outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. Jeff Chiu, AP

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, center, speaks at a news conference outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. Jeff Chiu, AP

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, center, speaks at a news conference outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide.

SAN FRANCISCO — The celebration began early and built throughout the day in San Francisco, a city at the vanguard of the gay rights fight.

Workers draped a giant, one-story-long rainbow flag over the front door of City Hall minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide on Friday morning. Three hours later, the dozens of same-sex marriage backers who initially showed up grew to more than 1,000 cheering supporters standing in front of City Hall.

That’s where then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ignited a legal challenge to California‘s same-sex marriage ban 11 years ago when he ordered clerks to marry a gay couple in defiance of state law.

The California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2013 after several legal setbacks, including the passage of Proposition 8, which briefly banned same-sex weddings in the state.

Newsom is now California’s lieutenant governor and told the crowd Friday that San Francisco celebrates diversity.

Afterward, at an impromptu press conference, he reminisced about that Valentine’s Day 11 years ago when he hoped that his action would spark a legal challenge. It did that – and more. A sympathetic state court declined to stop San Francisco’s City Hall from issuing marriage licenses for more than a month afterward and hundreds of same-sex couples flocked to the city to marry.

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“We were hoping to humanize the issue,” Newsom said of the first marriage performed at City Hall on Feb. 14, 2004. “What none of us expected is that the courts would allow us to continue marrying gay couples.”

Newsom said, “I’m proud I didn’t wait around for the ‘right time’ to marry same-sex couples.”

A small number of same-sex marriage opponents protested the Supreme Court decision by unfurling a banner on a freeway overpass across the San Francisco Bay in Berkeley.

“Regardless of today’s ruling, our coalition remains committed to strengthening and promoting the union of a man and a woman in a view of marriage that recognizes the higher purpose of serving the needs of children, not the personal desires of adults,” said Anthony Pugno, top attorney for ProtectMarriage.com, which sponsored Proposition 8.

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