For one month in early 2004, same-sex couples were allowed to legally wed in San Francisco when mayor Gavin Newsom ordered that marriage licenses be granted to same-sex applicants. When the court stopped these marriages in March 2004, the city of San Francisco, two dozen gay and lesbian couples, Equality California and another gay rights group came together to file suit.
In a 4-3 decision today, the California Supreme Court ruled that the ban is unconstitutional; that domestic partnerships are not a legal substitution for marriage, and marriage rights will be granted to all same-sex couples that wish to be married.
California joins Massachusetts today as only the second state to allow same-sex marriages, while a handful of other states give limited rights to gay couples, and most do not recognize same-sex unions of any kind.
While gay rights activists cheered the decision, opponents vowed to continue to fight to pass a marriage amendment into law in California that would overturn the court's decision. For now, though, same-sex couples are free to wed in California.