Prop. 8 Overturned: Ecstasy and Agony at City Hall

It's uncertain when Rod Wood and Roger Hunt will use these wedding rings.
No guarantee same-sex couples can wed next week, when Prop. 8 is officially overturned

For 10 whole minutes, Thom Watson was a happy man.

The 30-odd same-sex couples crammed into a balmy corridor of City Hall awaiting the word on whether Judge Vaughn Walker would give them his legal blessing to be married that day erupted into screaming, hugging, crying pandemonium when it was announced that Walker had lifted the stay on his ruling overturning Proposition 8. Watson described the feeling as "complete joy." He could have been speaking for everyone.

Ignorance truly is bliss -- and there was no shortage of bliss in this building. But it'll have to wait until next week. Or, perhaps, forever. No one ever had a chance of getting married today.

Couples who had been wildly celebrating their pending marriages were told that Aug. 12 would not be their anniversary day in a jarring, deflating manner. Activists with Marriage Equality USA told the jubilant throngs "The good news is, the stay is lifted!" Frantic cheering ensued. "But the bad news is, it's lifted next Wednesday." Silence.

Joe Eskenazi
Luis Juarbe grows emotional as he embraces his partner, Mike Reardon. The couple's reaction came after it was announced the stay had been lifted on Judge Vaughn Walker's Prop. 8 ruling.
Even an hour after Walker's confusing ruling, couples that had earlier been rapturously embracing one another were wandering, dazed, through City Hall. Something they had wanted for so long had been given to them -- and then, inexplicably, yanked away.

Judge Walker denied the defense's motion for a stay of his ruling, and entered judgment -- Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and overturned. Yet Walker then put a stay on the enactment of today's ruling until 5 p.m. on Aug. 18. You can read the actual document here

The disappointed couples were told to come back then -- and bring their families. But if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals takes the case before that time and slaps on its own stay, then the window for same-sex marriage will be closed before it could even be opened.

Molly McKay, the media director for Marriage Equality USA, acknowledged that there was no guarantee that same-sex couples would be able to marry by the time the stay on Walker's ruling expires on Aug. 18. "But hope springs eternal," she says.

It was a day that felt eternal for the couples sweating in that City Hall corridor. Rod Wood and Roger Hunt, the first couple in line, had been elegantly perspiring into their dark suits for nearly four and a half hours until the announcement and subsequent abortive elation.

Watson, who had earlier shared a tearful kiss and tight embrace with his partner, Jeff Tabaco, tried to put the best possible spin on things. "This feels like a relatively minor setback," he said. "It was quite an emotional day with a lot of emotional cycles. Lots of ups and downs."

Should same-sex marriage still be a possibility on Aug. 18, County Clerk Ed Lee said San Francisco will be ready. The city's dire finances wouldn't allow an all-night marriage marathon. At best, with the help of volunteers, Lee could pull off 100 more marriages than on a standard San Francisco day.

The actions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether he'll have to.

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