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
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 –
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
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
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