A lesbian couple who spearheaded a fight to end a ban on same-sex marriage in California wed Friday, hours after the ban was lifted following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Cheers erupted at San Francisco City Hall after Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier exchanged vows, in a ceremony conducted by California Attorney General Kamala Harris who said: "I now declare you spouses for life."
"I could not be more honored to stand here today to join the two of them in marriage," Harris said, before the couple exchanged rings and vows in front of a hastily-assembled gathering.
"We have waited a long long time for this day," said Stier after the brief ceremony, the first gay wedding since a brief period in 2008 when California allowed same-sex marriage but then banned it under a close-run referendum.
"Kris and I fell in love 14 years ago. We knew that our relationship would last ... and wanted our love to last and to be dignified by the institution of marriage," she told reporters.
The ceremony came only an hour or two after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted the ban on same-sex marriages, imposed under the so-called Prop 8 ballot measure, with immediate effect.
Many observers thought it could be several weeks before marriages would resume in the famously liberal western US state, but the appeals court announced the ban was lifted in a brief ruling posted online.
"The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately," the ruling read, prompting an explosion of online celebration, and hasty wedding ceremony preparations.
Perry and Stier were the plaintiffs in the initial action challenging Prop 8, which wound its way through the legal system before eventually being heard by the top US court.
The Supreme Court ruled that supporters of Prop 8 lacked the proper standing to appeal a lower-court judgment that declared the measure unconstitutional.
The ruling essentially allowed the original federal court ruling to stand, striking down Prop 8.
Supporters of Prop 8 have vowed to pursue their efforts to have the ban -- backed by 52 percent of Californians five years ago, with 48 percent against -- re-enforced.
ProtectMarriage.com, the organization which supported Prop 8, slammed Friday's court decision.
"This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption," it said.
It added: "The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means. If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed.
"It remains to be seen whether the fight can go on, but either way, it is a disgraceful day for California."