San Francisco mayor wants city to issue gay marriage licenses
February 12 2004 12:00 AM ET
Newly elected San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday he wants the city to be able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His spokesman said the mayor wants to officiate at the nuptials of two brides or two grooms within a week.
Newsom told county clerk Nancy Alfaro he wants all "forms and documents used to apply for and issue marriage licenses" to be revised so they can be provided "on a nondiscriminatory basis, without regard to gender or sexual orientation." "Less than a month ago I took the oath of office here at City Hall and swore to uphold California's constitution, which clearly outlaws all forms of discrimination," Newsom said in a statement. Newsom is hoping San Francisco would become the first place in the nation where gay and lesbian couples could wed--symbolically at least. California law explicitly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The Massachusetts supreme judicial court has cleared the way for that state to sanction gay marriages as early as mid May. "I don't know what options we have or if we can do this," Alfaro said. "We have always treated [the granting of marriage licenses] as a state-mandated function." The California attorney general has not issued an opinion on whether there is any wiggle room for city or county governments to set marriage requirements that differ from the state's, said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "This is a very controversial issue that has been subject to different court interpretations," Jordan said. "I'm sure at some point we will be asked to weigh in."
San Francisco's 8,902 same-sex couples make up 2.7% of the city's households, the highest percentage anywhere in the country, according to the 2000 Census. Though California is one of 38 states with specific laws banning marriage between people of the same sex, the state is widely considered by gay rights activists to have the nation's second-most gay-friendly laws after Vermont.
Last year the legislature approved, and then-governor Gray Davis signed, a measure granting same-sex couples who register as domestic partners many of the state-level legal rights and responsibilities that married spouses enjoy--a notable exception being the right to file joint income taxes.