The move comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a 2010 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. By ruling that the Proposition 8 backers appealing Walker's decision had no standing, the Supreme Court paved the way for gay marriages to resume in California.
Still in place was a hold on same-sex marriages the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had imposed while the case made its way through court. The appeals court said earlier this week it would wait at least 25 days before enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, but Friday's news changes that.
Gov. Jerry Brown reacted by directing the California Department of Public Health to notify county clerks and registrar/recorders that they should immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to a statement from the governor's office.
"On my way to S.F. City Hall. Let the wedding bells ring!" Attorney General Kamala Harris said on Twitter. In a subsequent message, Harris said she was presiding over the wedding of Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Proposition 8.
"I am thrilled that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in California," Harris said in a statement. "Gay and lesbian couples have waited so long for this day and for their fundamental right to marry. Finally, their loving relationships are as legitimate and legal as any other."
The first couple to show up at the Sacramento County Clerk's office Friday were Sacramentans Nicola Simmersbach and Diana Luiz, who have been together 7 years.
"I didn't think this would happen today," Simmersbach said. "This isn't really what we planned on wearing but we're here."
"We've been fighting on the Capitol steps for this moment," Luis said.
Jeffrey Dastin contributed to this post.
PHOTO: A photo posted to Twitter shows California Attorney General Kamala Harris with the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case, Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier.