Updated 6/18/2008 9:15 AM
By Janet Kornblum, Andrea Stone and William M. Welch, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO — Four years ago, Lynda Brocchini and Julie Rose rushed to City Hall. They joined hundreds of other gay couples lined up around the block on a gray February day to get married after Mayor Gavin Newsom declared same-sex couples could wed.
The marriage of the couple from nearby Pacifica was later voided, as were about 4,000 others. Tuesday, on a sunny June day, they got another chance.
"This is similar to 2004, but it feels more permanent," said Brocchini as their 2-year-old son, Dylan, who wore a red rose boutonnière, nibbled crackers.
Hundreds of gay couples trouped to courthouses and city halls from Eureka to San Diego to wed on the first full day of legalized same-sex marriage in California . Although the state will vote in November on a ballot initiative that could invalidate their unions, few same-sex couples seemed too concerned.
"Today is a dream come true," said Thomas Van Etten, 64, who married Robert Van Etten, 69, in Indio but legally took his name in 1975. The Palm Springs couple wore matching pink T-shirts reading, "Our love waited 40-plus years for this day."
The mood was festive as county clerks opened their doors the morning after a few trailblazing couples married Monday at 5:01 p.m. — when the California Supreme Court's May 15 ruling took effect. Wedding attire ranged from tuxedos to aloha shirts, and some couples wore matching outfits.
"I love both my daughters," said David Weiss of Santa Cruz , who watched his daughter Amber, 31, marry Sharon Papo, 29, in San Francisco . "I don't see anything wrong with it if they're happy."
In West Hollywood , a sign on the municipal building declared, "It's a celebration." At San Francisco City Hall , a gay men's chorus serenaded couples as they stepped inside to fill out new marriage licenses reading "Party A" and "Party B" instead of "bride" and "groom."
Scores of couples waited in West Hollywood for a turn under six wedding canopies set up for the occasion. Among those in line were Leanna Creel, 37, and her visibly pregnant partner of 10 years, Rinat Greenberg, 35. They planned a ceremony at another location with friends and family later.
"We're having a shotgun wedding," joked Creel, 37, a photographer, who said Greenberg was due to deliver soon. "We can't believe the timing. The opportunity to make it legal before the baby is born was just too good an opportunity to pass up."
In conservative Bakersfield , Kern County Clerk Ann Barnett refused to conduct any wedding ceremonies. She was still required to issue marriage licenses, and couples were applauded by well-wishers. Local ministers performed brief ceremonies in a courtyard.
Elsewhere, offices planned to stay open late as deputized officials declared couples, "spouses for life."
The Williams Institute at the University of California - Los Angeles estimates that half of the state's more than 102,000 same-sex couples will marry in the next three years. More than 67,000 gay couples from other states also are expected to wed here. Unlike Massachusetts , where gay marriage is limited to residents, anyone can marry in California .
Conservatives hope voters will nullify same-sex marriages in November. Tuesday, a state appeals court turned down a last-ditch attempt by the Virginia-based Liberty Counsel to halt gay marriages until then. Mathew Staver, the group's chairman, said opponents would try to rally public opinion to avoid "a tsunami of same-sex marriage flooding the other states."
In Massachusetts — the first and only other state to allow same-sex marriage — 10,500 gay couples have wed since 2004. State Rep. Elizabeth Malia, a Boston Democrat who married her lesbian partner, said, " Massachusetts and California are two major steps in a long process through 50 states. … With time, I don't think we'll see this as a novelty anymore."
In California on Tuesday, the novelty was the lack of protests. "We urged people to keep their powder dry," said Frank Schubert, campaign manager of ProtectMarriage.com, which leads the effort to pass the November initiative. "Today is not the day that we will win or lose the campaign."
About a dozen people near the Sacramento County clerk's office held a sign that read, "Resist Judicial Tyranny." In West Hollywood , Dale Parks, 46, drove from his home in Coronado near San Diego to tell gays they "were risking the wrath of God."
A few dozen protesters stood outside San Francisco City Hall Monday evening, but not many returned Tuesday.
Helen Zia, 55, and her partner, Lia Shigemura, 50, — plaintiffs in the case that overturned California 's ban — arrived from Oakland to take their vows. "Our marriage doesn't affect (the protesters) one bit," Zia said. The couple sang Goin' to the Chapel before they wed.
Soon after clerks began issuing licenses, the Human Rights Campaign launched an e-mail petition drive warning the historic milestone won't last if California voters pass a constitutional amendment Nov. 4 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese noted that the start of what some call the "summer of love" proved "decidedly unremarkable" on cable TV, which ran only intermittent segments on the nuptials.
Gay rights groups tried to showcase couples in long-term relationships, including octogenarian lesbians Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who were among the first to wed Monday.
"Images are important," said Steve Ralls of the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays. The more the public sees gays "just as loving and just as traditional as any heterosexual married couple," the sooner such unions will be recognized nationwide.
Abbe Land , mayor pro tem of West Hollywood , hopes to defeat the November amendment. Tuesday, though, she focused on officiating weddings.
"People are pledging their love to one another," Land said. "What is wrong with that?"
Welch reported from West Hollywood, Stone from McLean, Va. Contributing: Stefanie Frith of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif.; David Castellon of the Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta; and Jack McCluskey in Boston; The Associated Press