The Santa Clara County Clerk's Office said it was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as of Friday afternoon following a surprise court ruling that removed the last technical hurdle to same-sex marriage in California.
"We are ready to meet the needs of the community," Clerk-Recorder Gina Alcomendras said.
"News of the decision came late today, so we expect greater demand next week. We have set up a special line for marriage licenses that will bypass our normal queuing system."
The announcement followed a one-sentence ruling just after 3 p.m. by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifting a stay of a 2010 district court ruling which found California Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.
The Ninth Circuit action followed decisions Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court in two single-sex marriage cases. The high court ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act's denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples and said defenders of a 2008 California proposition defining marriage as "between a man and a woman" lacked standing to make their case.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris Wednesday said the high court ruling meant "same-sex couples have the fundamental right to be legally married in all of California's 58 counties" and asked the Ninth Circuit to lift the 2010 stay, which is what that court did today.
Today's ruling came as a surprise to some, as many had thought the Ninth Circuit would delay 25 days -- the technical period during which Supreme Court petitioners can ask for a rehearing -- before lifting the stay.
Alcomendras said if couples were in line before the clerk's office's normal 4:30 p.m. closing time Friday, the office would remain open to serve them.