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This Day in Legal History: Gay Marriages Begin at SF City Hall

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 12, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Happy 10th Anniversary!

On February 12, 2004, then-Mayor (now Lieutenant Governor) Gavin Newsom decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, calling it a "fundamental right." According to The Associated Press, 4,000 couples were married over the following month before the California Supreme Court stepped in and voided the marriages.

It took another nine years before gay marriage would be legal in California, but those 4,000 marriages were an important step towards the present day, when it seems every week, another state is joining the marriage equality movement.

Legacy Lives On

While California may have finally gotten there, nine years later, the battle for same-sex marriage continues across the nation. We've lost count of how many state recognize same-sex marriages at this point (it might be at 17), and how many recognize other states' marriages, but here are some of the more recent updates:

That's just in the last few weeks. And in each dispute, either Perry or Edith Windsor's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act has played a large part in the discussion and resolution of the legal issues, typically those of standing and equal protection.

Honoring the 4,000

Tonight at 5 p.m., there will be a reception at San Francisco City Hall for the 4,000 couples married there a decade ago, with speeches by Lt. Gov. Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and others, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Ten years ago, then-Mayor Newsom and 4,000 couples took a stand against injustice and changed history," Mayor Lee said in a statement. "We honor them today, even as we recommit to the cause for marriage equality across our own country and around the world."

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