The Supreme Court ruling came on the same day legislators in Massachusetts, the only US state where gay marriage is legal, gave preliminary approval to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage.
The setbacks prompted devastated couples and gay rights groups to stage protests around the country in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.
The California Supreme Court will hold a hearing in late May or June on whether San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and the city clerk overstepped their authority under state law by issuing same-sex marriage licences. Since 12 February the city has married 4,161 gay and lesbian couples.
In response to the ban, San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit against the state in the Superior Court, and six same-sex couples who were due to get married have filed a suit of their own. The suits contend that state marriage laws violate the California Constitution by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation.
Two of the couples were just minutes away from tying the knot when the court’s order was passed down last Thursday. We were filling out the application and they told us to stop, said Art Adams, who was the first to be denied as he and partner Devin Baker applied for a licence. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t understand why two people in love should be prevented from expressing it.
Diane Sabin, who was set to marry her partner of 11 years Jewelle Gomez, told the San Francisco Chronicle: I’m a full human being who pays full taxes, and I’m entitled to the rights every other adult has.
The development in Massachusetts came as a shock to many. However, the state law-makers are pushing for a compromise amendment that would result in civil unions carrying all the benefits of marriage under the state law.
According to Gay.com the tactic was designed to pre-empt a harsher amendment from the floor -“ one that offered no guarantee of civil unions. The compromise was approved in the first round of votes, and a final vote will be taken at the end of March.
The marriages in San Francisco inspired officials in New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon to hold gay weddings of their own. Following the intervention of the courts, same-sex marriage has been stamped out everywhere except Oregon.
In New York City nearly 47 percent of residents believe gay marriage should be illegal, compared to 40 per cent who thought it should be legal, according to a poll conducted by the newspaper Daily News. And in nationwide polls, a majority of Americans, sometimes by as much as a 2-1 margin, say they oppose legalising gay marriage.