Same Sex Couples Flood Marriage Bureaus

Hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of same-sex couples seeking to wed go to marriage bureaus Thursday, part of a nationwide protest aimed at recent decisions restricting the right to marry to a man and a woman.

The Web site told couples in San Diego County to go to the county clerk's office in San Marcos from 7:30-8:30 a.m. to request licenses.

Hundreds of couples were turned away from the New York City marriage bureau Thursday. Wearing signs that said "Just Not Married," the activists were part of a wave of demonstrations expected throughout the day at marriage bureaus or county clerks' offices from New York City to California, in communities large and small.

This year's protests were considered more important than ever, because they come in the wake of California's Proposition 8 vote and just as New Yorkers look to their state Senate to pass legislation that could lead to legalized gay marriage. In November, Democrats, who have long controlled the Assembly, won a narrow majority in the Senate, where Republicans have buried legislation to legalize gay marriage.
Some of the largest gatherings were expected in California, where the state's Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 5 over whether to overturn Prop 8 and restore California same-sex marriages. The court could render a decision as early as June.
The proposition, which changed the state's constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to one man and one woman, was narrowly approved by California voters last November.
In New York, same-sex marriages cannot legally be performed. However, Gov. David Paterson has issued a directive requiring that all state agencies recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith has suggested that he and his fellow Democrats lack the votes needed to pass a same-sex marriage bill this year. However, Smith said several days ago that he and fellow legislators are "committed to pursuing its passage."
Micah Stanek, 23, who stood outside in a floor-length wedding veil after he and his partner were rejected, said he moved to New York from San Francisco after Prop 8 was passed.

"New York is especially important because the rest of the country follows what happens here," he said.
The line also included straight engaged couples.
"They didn't bother us on our big day and they have a right to protest," said King Lau, 30, as his bride-to-be, Cheryl Zhang, 25, nodded in agreement.
Outside the bureau, protesters sang "Love and Marriage" and chanted, "What do we want? Marriage! When do we want it? Now!" One man held a sign that read: "Love your husband? Let me love mine!"
Freedom to Marry events around the country are listed on Web sites, including those run by two major organizations behind the protests -- Join the Impact and the national grass-roots organization Marriage Equality USA.

The protests are part of the 12th annual Freedom to Marry Week.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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