Judge Vaughn Walker's double-edged decision to lift the stay on same-sex marriage — but delay its implementation — whiplashed the emotions of a small group of gays, lesbians and their supporters who waited at the Kern County Clerk's office for more than three hours Thursday.
They were hoping to celebrate weddings.
Instead they were told to wait.
Meanwhile, gay marriage opponents, as they have in the past, stayed away from the county building and no major demonstrations of their point of view were announced. But one opponent was frustrated the judge moved same-sex marriages closer to reality.
News the stay had been lifted exploded on Twitter and Facebook after noon. In the clerk’s office lobby downtown, cheers exploded and news cameras began interviewing happy supporters of same-sex marriage.
“I'm no longer going to be one of 18,000,” yelled Kathy Briefer-Gose, who with her wife, Karen, celebrated the first lesbian marriage in Kern County in 2008.
But minutes later, Walker’s decision was posted on the court website and they learned marriage licenses cannot be issued to same-sex couples until after 5 p.m. Aug. 18. Walker’s delay was designed to give the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a chance “to consider the issue in an orderly manner.”
The mood of elation imploded.
One couple sagged into each other's arms, crying, as their plans to marry Thursday were halted mid-breath.
Bakersfield Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning community leader Whitney Weddell shot quick messages to couples who had started driving to the county administrative center to marry.
“No weddings today...” her Facebook post read.
Weddell, who had camped out at the clerk’s office on and off over the last couple days, said the larger picture was positive.
“We’re thrilled that the stay has been lifted. We’re encouraged,” she said. “It's a little disappointing that it’s not today.”
Rosalyn Strode, a community activist who supported the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, was disappointed in but not surprised by Thursday’s ruling.
“They are in front of the most liberal tyranny of justices in the nation. I don't expect them to abide by the rule of law,” she said.
For her the issue is traditional marriage.
“We're not judging these people. Judgment day is coming for them. We're doing this to protect marriage so that we may procreate and grow this great nation — or what used to be — or at least maintain it,” she said. “It's not about them. It’s about marriage between a man and a woman.”
Back at the clerk’s office, Rev. Byrd Tetzlaff, who officiated Briefer-Gose’s wedding, was disappointed she couldn’t perform ceremonies Thursday.
But she said Walker’s mixed decision was probably wise. While she doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage opponents “at all,” she said, they have a right to argue their case and have it considered seriously.
“I am very confident in the fact that gay marriages will be legal,” Tetzlaff said. “There is no gay marriage. There is only marriage.”