A California Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage is drawing massive attention.

Justices are preparing to hear three hours of oral arguments in a San Francisco courtroom today. At issue is the legitimacy of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that yanked back the right of gay and lesbian couples in the state to marry.

Opponents of Proposition 8 say it is an illegal revision to the state Constitution and not an amendment at all. Because it takes away previously granted rights – minority rights protected by the Constitution – it fundamentally alters the document. They contend that only the Legislature has the right to place such a question before the voters.

The court will also decide the fate of the 18,000 gay marriages performed during the June-to-November “summer of love” when gay marriage was legal.

Today's arguments will be televised live to accommodate the massive interest the issue has drawn.

Consider the number of media stories covering the hearing. Google News alone has accumulated nearly 1000 articles covering the events leading up to the hearing since Sunday. While only 2 media outlets on Google News covered a gay marriage committee hearing in Rhode Island held last week.

“That's because we're really small,” Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) told On Top Magazine.

Certainly California's size – and more to the point, huge economy – accounts for much of the interest. And the final tab to pass Proposition 8 – $83 million, the most expensive in American history – effectively increased the number of stakeholders nationwide.

But the story of the fight for gay marriage in California has encountered so many twists and turns that it has created its own powerful – some would argue unstoppable – gravitational force.

The state Supreme Court's original May decision that brought gay marriage to California broke the record for “friend of court” briefs submitted, and today's hearing trumped it.

Since the seemingly never-ending dramatic cliffhanger has unfolded on the streets of California – victory rallies, wedding ceremonies and demonstrations have been held throughout the state – it's only fitting then that huge crowds are expected to come together and share in the experience of watching the proceedings on a giant jumbotron screen set up near the state Supreme Court.

Last night in at least 30 cities from as far away as New York, gay rights activists held candlelight vigils to “light the path for the Supreme Court.” The largest – estimated in thousands – was held in San Francisco, where justices will convene.

Passage of Proposition 8 sparked huge gay rights protests, heated debates, boycotts and even political retribution for people on both sides of the issue.

Gay rights activists reacted immediately, taking to the streets the day after passage. Thousands demonstrated in front of churches and temples that had supported the gay marriage ban holding signs that read “No More Mr. Nice Gay,” “No on H8” and “I didn't vote against your marriage.”

California's gay marriage story is unique. It is the only state where gays have won the right to marry, only to have it yanked back. But what gay foes were not counting on was the great awakening that it sparked. Proposition 8 altered the debate for thousands of previously sidelined gay men and lesbians by framing the issue as a fundamental right being denied solely on the basis of sexual orientation. Something precious and important had been taken away, and nobody likes that.

Last night, the demonstrators roared “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!”

Shannon Minter, the National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney that successfully argued for gay marriage last year, and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater affair, will present their arguments today, and the court has 90 days to hand down its decision.

That decision will likely create its own uproar.