by Joshua Cinelli

Last week, Kathy Belge traveled from Portland to San Francisco with her partner of 12 years. They went to be legally married as a same-sex couple. As they waited with hundreds of gay couples outside city hall in the pouring rain, Belge had the feeling she was a part of something much larger.

"It was about making a statement for the rights of people everywhere to be able to love whom they please," said Belge after returning to Portland.

Starting almost two weeks ago, San Francisco's newly elected mayor Gavin Newsom began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Saying he had sworn to uphold the state's constitutional guarantee of equal rights, Newsom's discussion has allowed more than 3000 couples to obtain marriage licenses.

"Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry denies them more than a license," Newsom explained in a press conference. "It also precludes millions from obtaining health benefits, hospital-visitation rights, and pension privileges."

Although the mood in San Francisco has been upbeat, Newsom's actions have triggered a backlash that has sent other politicians scurrying. On last Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commented on the current illegality of gay marriage, stating: "Maybe the next thing will be another city that hands out licenses for assault weapons and someone else that hands out licenses for selling drugs. I mean... you can't do that." On Monday, the Attorney General of California announced that he would present the issue to the Supreme Court of California. He expressed pessimism that the marriage licenses will be upheld. The following day, President Bush pledged his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, four anti-gay marriage initiatives are reportedly gathering steam. Last Thursday, Kelly Bogg, one of the key petitioners, proposed a ballot initiative with the Oregon Secretary of State that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. It would also outlaw civil unions.