Same-sex marriages resumed in California on Friday just after an appeals court issued an unexpected order clearing the way for such unions — and the two couples whose Supreme Court challenge helped torpedo Proposition 8 were two of the first to wed.
Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, two of the lead plaintiffs who had challenged California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, were married in outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's press office at L.A. City Hall, with Villaraigosa officiating.
A few hours earlier, just before 5 p.m. Friday, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier were married at San Francisco City Hall by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The jubilant public ceremony, shown below at right, marked the resumption of same-sex unions in the country's most populous state after a 4-1/2 year break. California is now the 13th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriages.
"Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, I now declare you spouses for life!! #Prop8 #MarriageEquality," tweeted Harris just minutes after the ceremony.
Less than two hours earlier, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a brief order lifting a stay ordered in 2012 that had allowed time for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, a federal trial court judge found California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, a finding that was upheld by the 9th Circuit.
The appellate court order came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the Prop 8 a case, effectively paving the way for same-sex unions in California.
Same-sex marriage opponents who had argued in court on behalf of Proposition 8 -- the 2008 ballot measure that state officials refused to defend -- said the appellate court's order Friday was an "outrageous act" that denied the group its rights.
But the state's top elected officials celebrated the shift, which came just as San Francisco was beginning its massive annual gay pride celebration.
"LOVE WILL RULE THE WEEKEND. CONGRATS TO ALL THOSE PLANNING TO GET MARRIED," tweeted Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who as San Francisco's mayor in 2004 had ordered the issuance of the state's first same-sex marriage licenses.
"Same-sex marriage is now the law in California!," Gov. Jerry Brown tweeted after the federal appellate court order came down Friday afternoon.
The Prop 8 plaintiffs' wedding ceremonies marked the end of an historic week for the gay rights movement, which also saw the Supreme Court strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages permitted in other states.
In its 5-4 ruling on Proposition 8, the Supreme Court on Wednesday had decided the ballot measure's backers lacked standing under federal law to appeal the case, effectively leaving in place the 9th Circuit's 2012 finding that the law was unconstitutional. State officials had refused to defend the ballot measure in court, leaving a group including ProtectMarriage.com to argue on behalf of the measure.
The Supreme Court decision meant same-sex marriage could soon resume in California pending a legal process that many expected would mean a wait for the lifting of the stay on the 9th Circuit Court's order overturning Prop 8. It seemed it could takes weeks for same-sex marriages to resume.
Under Supreme Court rules, rulings are usually final after 25 days, and the court said earlier this week that it would not finalize its ruling in the Proposition 8 dispute until after that time had elapsed.
It was not immediately clear whether the appeals court's action would be halted by the high court.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had said after Wednesday's ruling that it would take at least the 25 days for the Supreme Court's ruling to become official. The San Francisco-based appellate court had also said it might continue to bar same-sex marriages beyond that time if proponents of Proposition 8 ask for a rehearing.
But Attorney General Harris had on Wednesday called for the stay to be lifted as soon as possible, after Gov. Brown said he wanted counties to prepare for same-sex marriages to resume once the 9th Circuit confirmed the stay was lifted.
And on Friday, the federal appellate court did so.
“The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately,” said the one-sentence order, issued just after 3 p.m. Friday.
County clerks in several of the state's 58 counties had on Wednesday put out statements that they would begin issuing marriage licenses once the stay was lifted.
With that done on Friday, same-sex marriage supporters in California celebrated.
"On my way to S.F. City Hall. Let the wedding bells ring! #Prop8," Harris tweeted Friday afternoon.
“I am thrilled that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in California,” Harris said in a statement issued just before 4 p.m. “Gay and lesbian couples have waited so long for this day and for their fundamental right to marry. Finally, their loving relationships are as legitimate and legal as any other.”
Anthony Pugno, the general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, said in a statement that the court order deprived the group of its “right to ask for reconsideration.”
"This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption,” Pugno wrote. "The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.