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Same-sex newlyweds in legal limbo

Inside San Francisco's City Hall, Gina Gatto, left, and April Stewart, embrace after being married.
Inside San Francisco's City Hall, Gina Gatto, left, and April Stewart, embrace after being married.

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CNN's David Mattingly on the legal limbo facing same-sex newlyweds in California.
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Radio host Bernie Ward and FRC's Tony Perkins debate same-sex marriages.
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President Bush calls same-sex marriage 'troubling.'
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CNN's David Mattingly on San Francisco's same-sex marriage licenses.
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Justice and Rights
Civil Rights
Same-sex marriages
San Francisco (California)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Looming court battles to stop same-sex marriage have put the more than 2,800 gay and lesbian couples who wed in San Francisco in legal limbo.

Questions have been raised about the validity of the marriage licenses, which were issued in defiance of California law, and two lawsuits are pending in San Francisco County Superior Court to stop the gay and lesbian marriages and declare those that have already taken place to be null and void.

President Bush Wednesday repeated his belief that marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples, adding that he was "troubled" by what was happening in San Francisco.

The president said the definition of marriage should be made by the people -- not by "activist judges."

"I'm watching very carefully, but I'm troubled by what I've seen," he told reporters at the White House. (Full story)

Since newly elected San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the county clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last Thursday, thousands of people have flocked to City Hall from California and around the country.

Newsom said marriage between gay and lesbian couples is "inevitable" and that anything less is "fundamentally wrong," despite the state law banning same-sex unions.

"There's also a constitution in the state of California that I swore to uphold just 39 days ago," he said Tuesday. "The bottom line is I took an oath of office and read that constitution, and nowhere in there did it say that I should discriminate."

The judges who heard arguments in the suits to halt same-sex marriage took no action in the cases Tuesday. The next hearing on the matter is Friday.

Robert Tyler, of the Alliance Defense Fund -- one of the groups that mounted a challenge to same-sex marriages -- said the law is on his side.

"What we're doing is right, we are on the right side of the law," he said. "The mayor is on the wrong side of the law."

Dan Johnson, who this week married his partner of 11 years, Bill Hinson, said he doesn't want to give up his marriage license.

"Not without a fight. It was a wonderful feeling to get married," he said. "I don't want it taken away now."

Supporters of same-sex marriage say denying gay and lesbian couples marriage licenses denies them basic rights.

"We're talking about state inheritance, we're talking about state property issues, we're talking about children's issues, we're talking about power of attorney," Ralph Neas, president of the group People for the American Way, told CNN's Lou Dobbs.

"It's an equal protection issue. It's a fundamental civil rights issue," he added.

Critics of same-sex unions say those rights can be afforded through other means, and homosexual couples don't need a marriage certificate to validate them.

Genevieve Wood, vice president of the Communications Family Research Council, told Dobbs that redefining marriage might be a slippery slope.

"If we're going to get into redefining marriage, why would we stop at just allowing homosexual marriage?" she asked.

"There are people out there... who want to engage in polygamy, they think that's a good family structure. There are others who think that group marriages are a family structure," Wood added.

CNN correspondent David Mattingly contributed to this report

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