WASHINGTON - James Packard knew that the marriage license hanging in a frame on his bedroom wall carried little legal weight even before the California Supreme Court ruled the document - and about 4,000 others just like it - invalid.
After all, Packard married a man, and only a handful of jurisdictions in the world permit same-sex marriages.
So Packard, who married his longtime partner, Erwin Gomez, at the San Francisco courthouse last spring, barely paused yesterday in the midst of planning an elaborate September wedding reception to mourn the decision. Irrelevant, he called it.
"The California Supreme Court might be able to invalidate the piece of paper we have on our wall, but I will never stop calling him my husband, and they can't invalidate our love for one another," said Packard, the 35-year-old owner of a Montgomery County-based real estate holding company.
"Desegregation did not occur overnight. These things took time. What Mayor Gavin Newsom did was our baby step."
The California court's ruling yesterday found that Newsom, the maverick mayor of San Francisco who issued the marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, overstepped his authority. The court ruled that the city broke the law by ignoring state legislation and a voter-approved measure defining marriage as a union between a man and woman.
Packard said that he and Gomez, 38, Estee Lauder's national makeup artist, had flown to the west coast to take part in a historic act of civil disobedience and love.
"Whether they want to recognize us or not today," Packard said, "we are part of American history, and they can never take that from me and Erwin."
But the move troubled Greg Baranoski, of Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood, who plans to marry his partner, Lucio Gama, in October in Provincetown, Mass.
Baranoski, a window display designer, and Gama, a scientist at Johns Hopkins, know that licenses issued to gay couples in Massachusetts might be annulled two years from now, when that state's legislature will be free to revisit the state supreme court's decision that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional.
"I think it's pathetic," said Baranoski, 44. "I just don't know what people would have us do. It's clear they don't want us to marry. Do they just want us to be single, or promiscuous, or living together?"
"It just makes me crazy because it's just not logical."