Actor George Takei and longtime partner Brad Altman were the first to receive a marriage license in West Hollywood when a court cleared the way for gay marriage earlier this year.
Best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek,” Takei said he was disappointed but philosophical about California voters' decision Tuesday to yank that right by passing a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
“There are going to be heartbreaks, setbacks and sacrifices to be made,” he said, “but we will soldier on.”
The passage of Proposition 8 stirred anger, protests, lawsuits and a deep sense of loss among gays in California. At least three legal challenges were filed by Wednesday night, and others were being prepared, ban opponents said.
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More than 1,000 people took to the streets against the ban in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, blocking traffic. Police said at least four people were detained.
Hundreds also gathered on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall. Some held candles and carried signs that read, “We all deserve the freedom to marry.”
It was unclear what would happen to the estimated 18,000 gay and lesbian couples, many from other states, who married after same-sex marriage was legalized in California in June. California will still allow same-sex civil unions, which offer many of the legal trappings of marriage.
On the other side of the issue, supporters of the ban hailed the outcome of the vote.
“Government did not create marriage, and neither politicians nor legislators have the right to redefine its basic meaning,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage California.
“Common sense, and concern for the common good, trumped ideology, bigotry and power politics here in California,” he said in a statement.
Andrew Pugno, attorney for the coalition of religious and social conservative groups that sponsored the proposition, said they planned to defend the measure, saying the legal action is “an insult to California voters and an attack on the initiative process itself.”
Among those voting for the ban was Denise Fernandez, 57, of Sacramento. “I believe a Christian is held accountable, and we have to make a difference.”
Many gay marriage supporters had hoped that a strong Democratic turnout for presidential winner Barack Obama would cement the right to marry extended by the state Supreme Court in May.
But the success of Obama, who does not support same-sex marriage but had opposed the gay marriage ban, did not translate into a win for gay marriage. Amendments to ban gay marriage also were approved in Arizona and Florida.
In downtown San Francisco, a city where a majority of residents voted against the ban, residents were disappointed by its success.
“I feel sad,” said Venkaf Mannava, 30, a computer programmer who is married with three children. “It's a personal decision and we should not say how other people should live their lives. They should be free to love and marry who they want.”
Despite intense disappointment, some newlyweds took comfort in the fact that millions of Californians had voted to validate their relationships.
“I'm really OK,” said Diana Correia, of Berkeley, who married her partner of 18 years, Cynthia Correia, on Sunday in front of the couple's two children and 80 relatives and friends. “I hope the marriage holds, but we are already married in our hearts, so nobody can take that away.”
In Los Angeles, Altman said having the state recognize his marriage to Takei was “extremely meaningful to me, but our relationship will continue and we will live long and prosper no matter what happens on the legal front.”