Hector Mata  /  AFP - Getty Images
Newlywed Nancy Hodges waves to pedestrians as she and her partner, Zulma Reyes, are driven around the Castro district in San Francisco last week.
By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/24/2004 4:09:58 PM ET 2004-02-24T21:09:58

At the Friendly Spirits liquor store in San Francisco's Castro District, store clerk Randy Balch said the champagne has been flying off the shelves. 

"We sold 15-20 bottles over the weekend," said Balch, who reckons that's about three times the normal number.

This predominantly gay and lesbian neighborhood is seeing non-stop wedding receptions as the same-sex marriage marathon continues downtown at City Hall.

"There's a lot of horn-honking going on," said Balch, "It's very festive."

It's meant good business for not only liquor stores, but florists and jewelers as well.

Fred Kirkbride, the owner of Brand X antiques, a place that sells old wedding bands among its items, said, "We had the busiest Saturday and Sunday in the history of our store."

Even the city itself has been making money: $62 for the marriage licenses, $82 for an official to perform the ceremony and a $13 filing fee.

Weddings by appointment only this week
But this week, San Francisco city officials scaled back the pace of the same-sex marriages.  The rule now: weddings by appointment only and only 60 appointments per day.

About two dozen same-sex couples showed up outside city hall Monday morning, hoping to get in anyway.  Instead, they were given a phone number to call to make appointments.  People waiting in line soon had cell phones planted against their ears, working their way through the busy signals and the bureaucracy.

Kirkbride said that's changed the atmosphere somewhat.  "It was very euphoric, he noted, "but now, it's very tentative."

City officials told NBC News that with same-sex couples traveling from all over the country to be married in San Francisco, normal city business was getting too disrupted to permit hundreds of marriages each day. 

By close of business Monday, just over 3,200 same-sex couples had been wed at City Hall, where the words "I pronounce you spouses for life" have been repeated over and over.

Will it all last?
But will it be for life? There's still plenty of uncertainty over whether the marriages will be upheld legally.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are squarely at odds over the issue. The governor warned on NBC's "Meet The Press" that the mayor was setting a bad precedent, disregarding state law that says marriage is between a man and a woman.

Seeking an answer to a deeply divisive question, California’s attorney general plans to ask the state Supreme Court on Friday whether San Francisco’s approval of same-sex marriages violates state law.

Monday’s announcement by Attorney General Bill Lockyer came after San Francisco filed a constitutional challenge to California’s prohibitions on same-sex marriages.

Lockyer, a leading Democrat and potential rival to Schwarzenegger in the 2006 election, agreed immediate action was necessary because of the statewide concern over the issue.

Lockyer told NBC News that he will argue in court that the law must be upheld. But he added he's also trying to end the legal limbo over same-sex marriage.

"People who had these marriages consummated need to know what their status is," Lockyer said, "So everyone will benefit from a quick decision by a court."

Conservative groups have also sued the city, but two judges declined to immediately halt the wedding spree. The next hearing in those cases isn’t scheduled until late March.

As she waited at City Hall for her partner to show up, Kathy Brinson-Wagner said, "They might not uphold our marriages," but predicted same-sex marriage would someday be fully legalized.  "Slowly, but surely," she said,  "we'll get it straightened out."

Antique store owner Kirkbride agreed that the law will be changed eventually, but added a cynical note. "As many weddings as we're seeing right now," he joked, "A few years down the line, we'll be seeing an equal number of divorces."

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