SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court ordered
an immediate halt to same-sex weddings in San Francisco yesterday
as Massachusetts lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a
constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in the only state
where they have been ruled legal.

Teary-eyed couples were quickly turned away at San
Francisco’s City Hall, where 4,161 gay couples have tied the
knot in the last month.

“We were filling out the application and they told us to
stop,” said Art Adams, who was the first to be denied as he
and partner Devin Baker sought a license.

“It’s heartbreaking. I don’t understand why
two people in love should be prevented from expressing
it.”

On the other side of the country, Massachusetts legislators
returned to the Capitol to consider a constitutional amendment that
would strip gay couples of their court-granted right to marriage
but allow civil unions.

The amendment won approval during two preliminary votes, but its
final passage is far from certain. Gay marriage supporters were
conducting procedural maneuvers that could ultimately lead to the
proposal’s defeat.

Massachusetts took center stage in the national debate over gay
marriage following a landmark decision by its highest court in
November that was reaffirmed last month. The rulings set the stage
for the nation’s first legally sanctioned gay marriages on
May 17.

Lawmakers seeking to put a gay marriage ban before Massachusetts
voters were unsuccessful during a joint House-Senate session last
month.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom waded into the debate at about
the same time, ordering his administration on Feb. 12 to issue
same-sex marriage licenses.

Newsom’s defiance of California law prompted several other
cities across the nation to follow suit, and President Bush last
month cited the San Francisco weddings when he announced that he
supports changing the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex
marriages.

Lawmakers in dozens of states have also taken up the issue.

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