SAN FRANCISCO - Demand for same-sex marriage licenses has been so great that officials turned away hundreds of gay and lesbian couples lined up outside City Hall yesterday, saying they simply didn't have the time or resources to meet all the requests.
San Francisco authorities estimated that they could process 400 licenses during special weekend hours. But on Saturday, they granted 600 licenses and performed 270 weddings by late afternoon.
Officials then gave numbers to 320 couples, securing their places in line for yesterday.
After quickly distributing 80 more numbers yesterday morning, officials told disappointed couples lined up around the block to return today.
Many couples nevertheless stayed in line despite instructions from city officials, hoping to receive numbers for today.
"It's a major disappointment," said Jill Kasofsky, 40, who had lined up with spouse-to-be Cynthia Juno, 45, at 8:15 a.m. after driving up from Los Angeles. "I'm thinking about coming back at midnight to sleep on the sidewalk. I'm sure I won't be alone."
In a challenge to both legal and social convention, San Francisco officials began issuing same-sex licenses and officiating at City Hall marriages on Thursday. The city has gone out of its way to provide the services - City Hall is normally closed Sundays.
The decision prompted two conservative groups to press for court intervention. But on Friday a judge allowed the weddings to continue through the weekend.
The issue returns to court tomorrow, when judges will hear separate requests from advocates of traditional marriage to void the licenses and order the city to stop giving them out.
The two organizations argue that the licenses violate state law, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. San Francisco officials counter that the licenses are legally binding documents that take a swipe at discrimination against same-sex couples.