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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 09:24 GMT
Gays rush to San Francisco to wed
Gay couple in San Francisco
It was a day of celebration for gay couples
Hundreds of gay couples from across the US have been racing to get married in San Francisco after the city's mayor lifted a state ban on same-sex unions.

The city hall said it had married some 900 gay couples over the past three days and expected to issue hundreds more licences for wedding ceremonies.

Mayor Gavin Newsom took the decision on Thursday on the grounds that the ban was a form of discrimination.

A legal challenge to the move by anti-gay-groups is to be heard on Tuesday.

No US state allows same-sex marriage, however, San Francisco has long been a pioneer in gay rights legislation.

I had this image of getting married on Valentine's Day. I'm just tickled to death
Lory Duncan

The mayor's decision puts officials centre stage in an intensifying national debate over same-sex marriage, the BBC's David Willis in California says.

President Bush is among those opposed to it, and it is thought he may soon endorse a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, our correspondent adds.

Gay Valentine

News of the mayor's decision to issue marriage licences to gay couples prompted hundreds to converge on city hall.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom stands between newlyweds
The mayor said he was confident he would win the legal battle

The first in the line were Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, who celebrate 51 years together on Valentine's Day.

They became the first same-sex couple in America to wed legally.

"Couples are coming from as far away as New York and Minnesota to be married here," San Francisco's City Hall official told the AFP news agency.

"We married 87 couple on Thursday, 590 yesterday (Friday) and at least 200 today (Saturday) so far," the official said.

Gay couples accompanied by their friends had been waiting for hours to get married - as queues stretched several blocs away from the city hall.

The authorities were forced to bring in extra staff to cope with the demand.

The mayor's decision was hailed by gay couples around America, many of whom rushed to San Francisco.

"We found out from our friends (on Thursday) afternoon and flew up from Los Angeles last night as soon as we could," Wendy Higgins-Goodell was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"We've waited 13 years for this," added Ms Higgins-Goodell, as she was holding the daughter her partner Tristan gave birth to last year via artificial insemination.

The weddings went ahead after San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren denied injunctions sought by conservative groups to block same-sex unions.

The groups were told to refile their lawsuits on Tuesday, as the judge said did not give a required 24-hour notice to the San Francisco attorney's office.

Gay couples wed in San Francisco
13 Feb 04  |  Americas
US state court says gays can wed
04 Feb 04  |  Americas
Making much of marriage
22 Jan 04  |  Americas
Massachusetts backs gay marriage
18 Nov 03  |  Americas
America's marital rows
16 Oct 03  |  Americas

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