San Francisco Marks 20 Years Since Pioneering Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

San Francisco Marks 20 Years Since Pioneering Same-Sex Marriage LicensesSource: Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Leticia Ruiz
Published on February 12, 2024

On Monday, San Francisco celebrated the 20th anniversary of a landmark moment in the fight for LGBTQ rights. Back in 2004, under the guidance of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a defiant move against federal and state laws at the time.

Despite the initial legal challenges and the subsequent nullification of these licenses by the California Supreme Court, these actions sparked a movement that would lead to the nationwide recognition of same-sex marriages in 2015. According to NBC Bay Area, more than 4,000 marriage licenses were issued during a month-long period which set the stage for future legal battles and societal changes.

The push for marriage equality benefited from San Francisco's early stand, as asserted by SFist, who highlighted the ACLU's involvement in the ensuing legal battles leading up to the California Supreme Court's landmark ruling in 2008. This ruling declared that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to be married and set the precedent that civil unions were not sufficient for the LGBTQ community.

Yet fears persist about the future of marriage equality with the current conservative lean of the Supreme Court, sparking concerns similar to the unsettling reversal of abortion rights. These anxieties are echoed by advocates such as Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the historic 2015 Supreme Court case, who told BNN Breaking News, "The fight for marriage equality is not over." Californians are set to face a ballot measure this November aimed at repealing Proposition 8 and amending the state constitution to recognize marriage as a fundamental right—a response to these ongoing concerns.

Looking back, the actions taken by Newsom and San Francisco have been crucial in the shift towards LGBTQ rights, recounted by LGBTQ citizens who got married at the time. "I will always cherish that sort of collective elation we felt that day," Nicholas Parham, a local who married his partner at San Francisco City Hall, reminisced in an interview with SFist