The federal judge who struck down Proposition 8 - California’s ban on same-sex marriages - decided today to stay that ruling for a week.
Early in the day, dozens of same-sex couples gathered on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall to wait for word of whether they could marry. Thom Watson and his partner Jeff Tabaco wore matching beige suits. Watson held their application for a marriage license.
"We’ve filled it out." Watson said. "We haven’t taken it in. We have to wait for the stay to be lifted before we can actually apply."
The Daly City couple moved to California in hopes they’d be able to marry soon. Watson’s partner of seven years, Jeff Tobaco, said it was a natural progression for them.
"We have a domestic partnership and we had a commitment ceremony last year and now we’re ready for the full equality before the law." Tobaco said.
Shortly after noon the crowd had swelled to a couple hundred people, including passersby who’d stopped to watch. One man shouted out that the federal judge had denied a motion to permanently stay his ruling striking down Proposition 8 — which meant gays in California could marry.
Couples who’d come to wed hugged and cried, then surged inside the San Francisco County Clerk’s office to apply for marriage licenses.
It took a few more minutes for the rest of the message to reach the crowd: the federal judge would lift the stay of his ruling, but not until next Wednesday. That allows Prop 8 supporters to ask the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the ruling while it considers an appeal of the case.
The crowd moaned "no!"
Thom Watson worried he might have to wait longer than a week to marry, but held on to what he considers the sweeter part of the victory.
"We have at least had a federal judge say the federal constitution mandates that we have this right." Watson said. "We’ve never had that before. So that’s the important thing to take away."
Thom Watson and Jeff Tobaco say they’ll be back at the clerk’s office next week to get married.
The lawyers defending Proposition 8 asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Thursday to impose a stay that would halt gay marriages while the court considers the judge's ruling that struck down the ban.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.