GAYS Flock To SanFrancisco To Get 'Married' ....(Pictures) !
By Adriel Hampton
Published on Monday, February 16, 2004
Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples were turned away from City Hall Sunday after waiting hours to wed after city officials said they did not have the resources to process any more marriage licenses. Couples vowed to camp out on the steps of City Hall in hopes of getting the chance to exchange vows Monday morning.
In what one City Hall staffer described as "trying to shove an elephant through a pinhole," the County Clerk's office scrambled to process more than 400 marriage license applications Sunday for couples lined up through two floors of the building. Officials expect to have processed 1,600 licenses since Thursday.
Couples from around the state and nation have rushed here to participate in the first gay marriages after Mayor Gavin Newsom declared last week the state Family Code that limits marriage to heterosexual couples unconstitutional.
Lined up outside City Hall Sunday without hope of filling out an license until Monday morning, couples were polite, but bordered on frustration.
Several yards from the City Hall entrance, Erin Lewis held up sign declaring the line "Camp Wanna Be Wed." Signs declaring the happening "San Francisco 2004 Marry-in, Feb. 12-?" adorned lampposts.
Lewis and her partner, Molly Hollis, left Saturday at 6 a.m. from Austin, Texas, and had waited since early Sunday morning for a marriage license.
"We aren't going back home without it," Lewis said.
City staff worked over the holiday weekend to process as many same-sex marriage licenses as possible before The City is forced into court to defend the constitutionality of the policy. The county clerk's office, with only six computers for handling the licenses, normally issues about 30 per day.
Officials issued tickets to 320 couples who weren't processed Saturday, and allowed them first into the building early Sunday, along with 80 couples who began lining up in the pre-dawn hours. Hundreds more were turned away. Sunday afternoon, another 40 couples were allowed into City Hall and deputies asked dozens more to disperse. In the mid-afternoon, scores of couples continued to wait in line for service Monday morning, when the clerk's office hopes to process another 400 licenses. Enforcement of anti-camping laws outside the building appeared unlikely.
A volunteer from Under One Roof, a Castro retail store that funds AIDS prevention, passed out biscotti to waiting couples. Many shared food, bottles of water and called for pizza. Some set up in lawn chairs for the long wait, while others mournfully headed home. One man hung an "I approve" placard on a statue of Abraham Lincoln.
"They are talking about dispersing this line, but we're not going anywhere," said Suzy Bikakis.
Many camped out due to the threat of licenses being halted. Two conservative family groups sued San Francisco in two separate actions last week in an attempt stop marriages. A judge refused to immediately halt the marriages Friday, but the cases return to court Tuesday.
"The mayor clearly has picked a fight, but it's the city attorney's position that it's a fight worth fighting," said Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for the City Attroney's office.
About 40 Muslims protested the weddings Friday, silently holding signs quoting the Koran. The Archdiocese of San Francisco also issued a statement expressing disappointment with Newsom's actions. Across the street from City Hall Sunday afternoon, a handful of protesters held signs condemning homosexuality and left when rain began to fall.
Newsom's bold move comes as Massachusetts legislators struggle over a state Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage and President Bush considers an anti-gay marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Polls show the national citizenry sharply split on same-sex marriage equality. Last week, state Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill that would legalize same-sex marriages in California.
Leno presided over more than 100 same-sex marriages over the weekend and gay marriage advocates Saturday rallied in Sacramento in support of his proposed law.
Wedding bells ring Castro's cash registers
By Ethan Fletcher
Published on Monday, February 16, 2004
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Merchants in the Castro District were not only celebrating the first gay marriages in San Francisco history, but also counting their earnings after a lucrative, historic Valentine's Day weekend.
Many small shops in The City's mostly gay quarter received a boost from wedding-delirious revelers. Adding to the profit-friendly environment was a Saturday Valentine's Day, a long President's Day weekend, beautiful weather and an annual gay gathering.
Ellen Sinaiko, co-owner of the small café La Mediterranee at Noe and Market streets, said that while the restaurant is always packed on Valentine's Day, Saturday was something special due to Mayor Gavin Newsom's historic opening of the floodgates for gay marriages in San Francisco.
"It was busy all weekend. Friday lunch was good, Friday night was standard good, yesterday brunch was nonstop and last night was out of control," Sinaiko said. "There definitely was an extra buzz [because of the marriages]. It's all anyone can talk about."
Indeed, denizens in the Castro could be overheard talking about such topics as conservative backlash and the possibility of gay-marriage in Massachusetts. At one point, two men in a red convertible drove down Market Street honking, holding a sign saying "just married," and one store had "Have a Happy Homo Honeymoon" lettered across its front.
Brian Shonkwiler, working at Not Just Flowers at 18th and Castro streets, said that beginning Thursday, it was the single biggest weekend in the flower shop's nine-year history.
"It was really great, it's the best we've ever had," he said. "It was the gay marriages in combination with Valentine's Day, the long weekend and the beautiful weather.
"People were spending lots of money -- big money," he added. "Normally you get people trying to barter with you, but this weekend it was like, nope, my price is fine."
Shonkwiler said that 90 percent of Sunday's business, normally slow after Valentine's Day, was marriage-related purchases.
"It was fantastic, I couldn't have asked for a better Valentine's Day -- they were very supportive of our store."
Down the street, Geoffrey Douglas, the owner of Faerie Queene Chocolates, said business was humming on the busiest holiday of the year for sales. Sitting behind the chocolate laden counter, sporting rainbow suspenders, Douglas claimed sales were up about ten percent due to the marriages.
He also said that local merchants were benefiting from the annual gay gathering of the International Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco. Although the more manly, straight-laced "Bears" tended to shun the chocolate shop -- because it is too "foofy," he claimed -- Douglas said sales were brisk.
"Nobody is going to get laid on Valentine's Day without a box of chocolates," he said.
To prove that gay couples were not just holding hands over the weekend, Jessie Vanciel, a salesperson at adult novelty store Phantom on Castro Street, said business was up 50 percent.
Other beneficiaries of the hot weekend were the Castro bars and clubs. Enrique Jiminez, a bartender at the dance club The Pendulum, said he saw at least eight newlyweds celebrating in the ultra-packed 19th Street establishment Saturday night.
It was the best weekend of the year at Castro Village Wine Co. on 19th Street, according to salesperson Rob Messick.
"A lot of pink champagne, a lot more than last year," Messick said of weekend sales. "Lot's of tuxedo-clad people."