Gay Marriage Firestorms Across US

Michael Carr of Tigard, Ore. calls for support from passing motorists as same sex couples line up for marriage licenses behind him at the Multnomah County Clerk's office in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 5, 2004.
The mayor of a college town said he would abide by a ruling that temporarily barred him from performing more same-sex marriages, but was considering his legal options.

The ruling was one of many developments nationwide on the gay marriage issue Friday. In San Francisco, lawyers for the city defended the more than 3,600 gay marriages sanctioned there, and in Oregon a coalition sued to block same-sex marriages in Multnomah County.

In New York, Justice Vincent Bradley issued a temporary restraining order against Jason West, the 26-year-old mayor of New Paltz, at the request of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which acted on behalf of a local resident.

"The mayor in substance ignores the oath of office that he took to uphold the law," Bradley said.

West insisted he kept his oath to uphold the constitution.

"But in our system of constitutional government, judges have the last word," West said in a prepared statement. "I intend to fully abide by the judge's decision. And I am considering legal options."

Sources told CBS News the Liberty Council would also seek to have West removed from office.

The ruling against West came as New York Gov. George Pataki said the state is ready to crack down on any official who performs a wedding without a marriage license. West performed his first spate of 25 same-sex marriages a week ago in his village, which is about 75 miles north of New York City and includes the State University at New Paltz.

On Saturday, a New Paltz citizens group planned to go ahead with same-sex nuptials, this time with a Unitarian Universalist minister presiding.

In California, San Francisco's lawyers responded to efforts by the state attorney general and a Christian public interest law firm to invalidate the marriages sanctioned there in the last three weeks.

The California Supreme Court had ordered the city to respond to a pair of petitions asking for a prompt judicial declaration on the legality of the same-sex marriages.

Those seeking to shut down San Francisco's gay wedding spree, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, argue that an existing section of the California Constitution prohibits "administrative agencies" of the state from declaring laws unconstitutional on their own.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed briefs arguing that municipal authorities are "independently responsible" to uphold the U.S. Constitution. The justices have not indicated when they might rule in the case.

In Oregon, meanwhile, a lawsuit was filed Friday by the Defense of Marriage Coalition two days after officials in Multnomah County began sanctioning gay weddings. The group contends that county commissioners violated the state Public Meetings Law by agreeing privately among themselves to change county policy. The group also argues that Oregon law clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

"We would rather have a debate through the democratic process, but we were not given that choice," said Kelly Clark, an attorney for the coalition.

The coalition, organized by Republicans, appeared to get support from Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who said a debate on gay marriage was needed. In his "state of the state" address, he asked Oregonians to "step back and take a deep breath and give the process a chance to work."

Kulongoski also noted he expects a legal opinion soon from Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers.

Also Friday, lawmakers in Wisconsin and Kansas pushed ahead with efforts to amend their states' constitutions to ban gay marriage, while a similar measure died in Idaho. Fourteen states are seeking this year to amend their constitutions to ban same-sex marriages.

Most Americans are opposed to gay marriage, according to a CBS News poll conducted immediately after President Bush endorsed a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Some 59 percent of those in the survey said they would favor an amendment to the Constitution that would "allow marriage only between a man and a woman," up slightly from 55 percent last December.

Mr. Bush's support for the amendment follows decisions by Massachusetts' top court that prohibiting same-sex marriages would violate that state's constitution. The court rulings cleared the way for full-fledged gay marriages by mid-May and sparked the parade of marriages in San Francisco.