On Monday, California became the second state in the U.S. to grant full marriage quality to gay and lesbian couples.

After waiting for more than half a century for legal recognition of their relationship, lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became one of the first same-sex couple in California to legally marry.

On Tuesday, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples will follow in their footsteps to celebrate the latest victory in the fight for LGBT marriage equality.

“Liberty and justice for all is finally a reality in California. For the first time in the history of our state, lesbian and gay couples may get legally married,” L. A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean said in a statement released on Tuesday.

“No longer will the government interfere in our private lives. No longer will we be singled out and treated differently just because of whom we love.

“Instead we are finally being treated just like everyone else—no betterr, no worse. Today is a proud day not only for LGBT people and our families and friends, but for all fair-minded Californians.”

In San Francisco, hundreds of supporters gathered at City Hall on Monday evening to celebrate one of the first legal marriages of a same-sex couple in California.

The cheers and applause of the crowd was deafening as gay rights icons Phyllis Lyon, 84, and Del Martin, 87, emerged from the building after their ceremony to cut their wedding cake in front of a gaggle of media cameras.

“When we first got together, we were not really thinking about getting married, we were thinking about getting together” Lyon said, standing beside her new wife. “I think it is a wonderful day. We are very happy.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who presided over Martin and Lyon’s marriage ceremony, said: “I think today marriage as an institution has been strengthened. I think today marriage has been affirmed. Today is the first day in the state of California that we are providing marriage equally and fairly to everyone. Denying no one their right and opportunity to live their lives out loud.”

Newsom also presided over Martin and Lyon’s marriage ceremony in 2004, after the San Francisco Mayor ordered city officials to begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples in protest of the state ban on gay and lesbian marriage.

Those licences were later voided by the California Supreme Court when they determined Newom had acted illegally in issuing them.

Martin and Lyon then joined several other gay and lesbian couples in a lawsuit to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in California.

Last month, the California Supreme Court judged for the plaintiffs in the case, ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the state’s constitution.

”These are indeed historic times,” said Lorri L. Jean.

“I am overjoyed that these beloved and admired lesbian icons were finally able to realise full equality under the law. In 1955, they put their lives on the line so that lesbians could have a voice.

“They were leaders in our movement for decades. Now they have once again helped to make history. Congratulations to them and to all of the couples who will get legally married today and in the weeks and months to come.”

In Beverly Hills, Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, another couple who participated as plaintiffs in the lawsuit that eventually resulted in an overturn of the gay and lesbian marriage ban, were the first same-sex couple to legally marry in L. A. County.

A crowd of onlookers cheered as Tyler and Olson pressed their foreheads together, their cheeks wet with tears, as they were married in a Jewish ceremony in front of the Beverly Hills courthouse yesterday evening.

Even as thousands of other gay and lesbian couples plan to follow Martin, Lyon, Tyler and Olsen to the altar in the days and weeks ahead, all are aware that this massive celebration of marriage equality in California could abruptly end.

Gay marriage opponents have already secured a place on the November ballot for a voter’s initiative to amend the state constitution to restrict marriage to “between a man and a woman” only, which would effectively halt the rush of same-sex marriages in the state if passed.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions about this,” Newsom told Time in an interview. “It’s exhilarating on the one hand. But it’s by no means certain that California won’t take back what it has given.”

Lorri L. Jean, who has been deeply involved in the fight for marriage equality in California, also spoke of the coming fight to keep same-sex marriage safe in the state.

“Celebrate today; but prepare for battle tomorrow,” Jean said in a statement. “Right-wing extremists have qualified a measure for the November ballot that would amend the Constitution and ban the freedom to marry. To protect marriage for all Californians, we must defeat the measure and the bigotry it stands for.”

For extensive coverage of the celebration of marriage equality in California, visit Advocate.com.

For more information on how to get involved in the fight to protect marriage equality in California, visit www.EqualityForAll.com.

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