Court lifts ban on gay marriage in California

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:33pm EDT

1 of 3. Rainbow colored flags fly outside City Hall in San Francisco, California June 28, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by ruling that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits and paving the way for same-sex marriage in California.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Same-sex marriages were set to resume in California on Friday, after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a surprise order lifting an injunction preventing the unions.

The order came in response to an opinion released Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively killed a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in the state.

Within moments of the ruling, couples, officials and activists began to converge on San Francisco City Hall, where unions were due to resume immediately.

"On my way to S.F. City Hall," tweeted the state's attorney general, Kamala Harris. "Let the wedding bells ring!"

Harris arrived with her arm around a key lawyer in the case, as the couple at the heart of a case challenging the state's ban waited eagerly for their marriage license to be issued.

"This is really a great day," said Cindy Stier, who with her fiancee Kristin Perry filed the lawsuit against Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California in 2008.

The 9th Circuit had been expected to wait 25 days before lifting the injunction so the Supreme Court would have time to release a formal order. But the judges decided to act instead on Friday, a move that would allow the marriages to begin in advance of Gay Pride weekend.

"The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately," the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Writing by Sharon Bernstein and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Gary Hill and Eric Walsh)