SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, filed an order late Friday afternoon allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California immediately.
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At San Francisco City Hall, officials quickly conducted California's first same-sex marriage ceremony at 4:45 p.m. between Berkeley residents Kris Perry, 48, and Sandy Stier, 50. They were one of two couples whom successfully challenged the state's Proposition 8 ban in court.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for gay marriage in California again when it dismissed an appeal to a lower court ruling overturning Prop. 8. as an unconstitutional violation of civil rights. About 18,000 couples had tied the knot before the ban was approved by voters in 2008.
Supreme Court orders usually take 25 days to go into effect, but the 9th Circuit's filing on Friday vacated a stay and allowed the state to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses right away. Court spokesman David Madden said the three-judge panel's unanimous decision to act sooner was "unusual, but not unprecedented."
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Gov. Jerry Brown said he had notified clerks and registrars in all 58 counties that "same-sex marriage is again legal in California" and marriage licenses could be issued immediately.
"On my way to SF City Hall. Let the wedding bells ring," state Attorney General Kamala Harris tweeted moments after the 9th Circuit issued its order, which she had requested. Harris officiated the wedding of Perry and Stier, with over a hundred people gathering on crowded City Hall balconies in the rotunda to watch.
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"Today is wildly exciting for both of us we're so happy," Stier said in an interview with KCBS. "We're just thrilled to be here, finally, crossing this important threshold into the next phase of our lives where we can be legally wed."
"What's really exciting about today is that our marriage will last and it will be permanent and legal and for that we are very grateful," Perry added.
During the marriage ceremony, Harris told the smiling couple clad in a matching beige suit and dress that she could not be "more honored as I stand here today to join them."
"Marriage is the sincere desire to join two lives together," Harris said as she spoke briefly spoke about the couple's 14 years together and their desire to get married. "They have waited, hoped and fought for this moment. Today their wait is finally over."
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The couple, who were joined by one of their sons, Elliott Perry, as ringbearer, then exchanged vows and rings and were pronounced "spouses for life."
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said City Hall, which stayed open late Friday evening to accommodate couples rushing in to get marriage licenses, would be open on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as the city hosts its annual gay pride celebration.
Clerks in other Bay Area counties made plans to begin issuing licenses on Monday.
The second plaintiff couple in the Prop. 8 case, Jeffrey Zarrillo and Paul Katami of Burbank, were married about 6:30 p.m. Friday at Los Angeles City Hall with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presiding.
Sponsors of Prop. 8 complained about being caught off-guard by the 9th Circuit's swift action that made it more difficult for them to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.
"We're just totally outraged by this," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for Protect Marriage, a coalition of religious conservative groups that backed the measure. "It's just not right."
But Julie Nice, a constitutional law professor at the University of San Francisco, told KCBS that the 9th Circuit's action was appropriate and within its authority.
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Vikram Amar, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Davis, agreed, saying: "Some people may think it was in poor form, But it's not illegal. The appeals court may have felt that this case has dragged on long enough."
California is now the 13th state, in addition to District of Columbia, to recognize a right to same-sex marriage as a result of court rulings, laws by state legislatures or voter initiatives.
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