Prop. 8 ruling reignites same-sex marriage fight

A legal bump in the road for their cause did little to temper the hopes of the same-sex marriage supporters gathered outside the California Supreme Court in San Francisco on Thursday.

A federal appeals court is weighing whether to overturn a judge’s decision invalidating California’s voter-approved initiative banning gay marriage. The state’s high court stated Thursday that Proposition 8 sponsors can argue their case without the support of state elected officials, who refused to do so.

But Billy Bradford was still confident that Prop. 8 would eventually be defeated.

“This is just another stepping stone on the road to equality,” said Bradford, 55, of Castro Valley.

Shelly Bailes, of Davis, married her partner in June 2008 and is one of about 18,000 people whose same-sex California marriages remain legal. The smiling 70-year-old bore a sign saying “We all deserve the freedom to marry.”

“I just want to be alive to see it happen,” Bailes said. “I’ve been fighting this too long.”

Brian Brown, president of the conservative National Organization for Marriage, a main contributor to Prop. 8, said in a statement that “it is gratifying to know that over 7 million Californians who supported the initiative will have a vigorous defense of their decision in our federal courts.”

Brown also called it shameful for Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, as well as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to not defend the measure.

“We fully expect the 9th Circuit, the most overturned court in America, to invalidate Prop. 8, finding some phony right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution,” he said. Brown expects victory “once this case gets out of San Francisco” to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, Kate Kendell of the National Center For Lesbian Rights said her group disagreed “that a handful of unelected initiative sponsors have the power to represent the interests of the entire public and to override the decisions of the state’s elected executive officers.”

Kris Perry and her partner, Sandy Stier, also came to the steps of the state’s high court. The Berkeley couple — one of two that sued to invalidate Prop. 8 — while not pleased with Thursday’s ruling, said they were nevertheless “relieved” that the case could now move forward. Both seemed confident California’s same-sex marriage ban would eventually be eliminated, even if it is appealed all the way to the highest court in the land.

“I just think the whole country would benefit from it being the precedent-setting case,” she said.

Prop. 8 timeline

  • Nov. 5, 2008: Proposition 8, declaring same-sex marriage illegal, passes with 52 percent of the vote.
  • May 27, 2009: Two couples file lawsuit challenging Prop. 8 in federal court.
  • Jan. 11, 2010: Federal trial before U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker begins.
  • Aug. 4, 2010: Walker finds Prop. 8 unconstitutionally violates the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
  • Aug. 5, 2010: Appeal of Walker’s ruling filed before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; new marriages on hold pending a decision.
  • Thursday: California Supreme Court rules Prop. 8 sponsors have right to argue in support of the measure without the support of state officials.
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