gay_cityhall_gavel.jpgSame-sex couples tried to get marriage licenses today at the county clerk’s office at San Francisco City Hall as part of a symbolic Valentine’s Day protest against California’s ban on gay marriage.

The annual action, organized by Marriage Equality USA, was preceded by a news conference at which organizers said they simply want the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“Just treat us equally in the eyes of the law,” said Billy Bradford, an activist with the group. “We’re not asking for much.”

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 26 will hear oral arguments on whether to uphold or overturn Proposition 8, which voters passed in 2008 to amend the state’s constitution to provide that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The court is expected to issue a decision in the case by the end of June.

Some city officials joined today’s news conference, including Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Wiener noted that during the annual event at City Hall, there are always weddings going on in the rotunda of the building.

“I know very soon everyone will be able to get married in that rotunda,” he said.

While gay marriage remains not valid in California, same-sex couples are limited to registering with the state as domestic partners, a procedure Jeff Tabaco said “had all the beauty and celebration of a business transaction.”

Tabaco and Thom Watson are one of the couples waiting for gay marriage to be legalized in California and who went to the clerk’s office to ask for a marriage license.

“We know we won’t be able to get legally married today,” Watson said. “We’re asking for that same recognition until it’s simply the way things are.”

The group walked to the clerk’s office while singing the song “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and chanting for marriage equality.

One man in a tuxedo in the rotunda, apparently unaware of the purpose of the chanting, yelled, “We’re trying to get married here, have some respect!”

After being denied the marriage licenses, 14 people remained in the office in a planned act of disobedience. They were taken out of City Hall in plastic handcuffs and released shortly afterward without being cited or arrested.

Bradford said the civil disobedience was meant to raise awareness of the issue of marriage equality as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the Proposition 8 case.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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