Court still pondering Prop. 8

By Aaron Blevins, 12/06/2012

Announcement may come within days


Update: The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Dec. 7 to hear the Prop. 8 case, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case. Look for more information in the Dec. 13 issue of Park Labrea News and Beverly Press.

Equality advocates and same-sex couples have been waiting in suspense to learn the fate of Prop. 8, the voter approved ballot measure that made same-sex marriage illegal in California in 2008.

Proponents and opponents of the ballot measure are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the Prop. 8 case. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck Prop. 8 down in 2010, and if the Supreme Court opts not to hear the case, that decision would stand, rendering same-sex marriages legal in the state once again.

For equality advocates, the hope was that the justices would make a decision early this week, but no announcement was made. Steve Roth, a spokesman for Equality California, said the court will have another conference regarding Prop. 8 on Friday, with an announcement following as early as Monday. If the justices delay again, the next conference will be Jan. 4.

“There’s chances that just about anything could happen,” Roth said, adding that if the justices take the case, a decision could be expected by spring.

There is a great deal of anticipation in West Hollywood, Mayor Jeff Prang said. In 2008, there was a several month window between the legalization of gay marriage and the implementation of Prop. 8. Prang said some couples waited to exchange their vows because they didn’t believe the measure would pass.

Like many heterosexual couples, they also wanted to plan their nuptials in advance so that relatives from out of state could attend and other accommodations could be made, he said.

“When marriages were legalized, it was euphoria,” Prang said. “After it was taken away, it was just devastating — to have something, a right that was available to people, just ripped away.”

The mayor, who married his husband, Ray Vizcarra, in 2008, said he doesn’t encounter people who are envious that he and Vizcarra jumped at the chance to wed. It’s not a matter of lamenting a missed opportunity; it’s a matter of LGBT people receiving equal rights, Prang said.

“It certainly takes its toll,” he added. “It’s certainly exhausting. You have to continue the fight, as long as it takes.”

While many are eagerly awaiting the court’s decision, there is also a fair amount of trepidation, Prang said. If the court takes the case and rules in favor of Prop. 8, it could have nationwide implications, he said.

“If they vote against us, it’s a great setback,” Prang said.

When same-sex marriages were legal in 2008, West Hollywood City Council members and staff were deputized to preside over weddings. Statewide, approximately 18,000 same-sex couples tied the knot, and West Hollywood hosted hundreds, if not thousands of ceremonies, the mayor said. He personally presided over about 30 weddings.

“It was a tremendous honor and opportunity to be a part of that historic event,” Prang added.

He said fellow city councilman John Duran was “just a marriage machine.” Duran said he presided over more than 100 ceremonies, though his day job allowed him the opportunity to take time off to do so.

“For a while there, it was kind of round the clock, every twenty minutes,” he said. “It was pretty intense. … Then, of course, on Election Day in November [2008], the door was closed.”

Duran said he would love the opportunity to do it again. He said the most touching element to the 2008 weddings were the lines “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Weddings are generally associated with young people beginning their lives together, but some couples had already gone through “richer,” “poorer,” “sickness” and “in health,” he said. And they wept at the words.

“I think it was one of the most beautiful things,” Duran said. “A lot of these gay and lesbian couples had already been in relationships for ten, twenty or thirty or more years. They’d already been in a lifetime together. In many ways, it was a more profound experience for me to see that that kind of marriage occurred.”

He said West Hollywood does have a lot of pent-up demand for ceremonies, as many people did not want to essentially have “shotgun weddings” when same-sex marriages were legalized in California.

“A lot of these couples are now calling and e-mailing [about] what West Hollywood is going to do,” Duran said, adding that people are carefully monitoring the Prop. 8 case.

While marriage equality advocates celebrated several victories in the November election, the city councilman said that doesn’t mean Prop. 8 is a done deal.

“I wouldn’t take for granted the four liberal justices … because the Supreme Court is also a conservative institution,” he said. “It does not like to get ahead of public opinion. Public opinion is changing, and the court may want public opinion to evolve for a few more years before making a decision. …My hope is that they let the lower court ruling stand … so we can get back to business here in California.”

Prang said the city has reached out to L.A. County officials to see whether the county would set up another satellite office for engaged couples. He said the correspondence has been “favorable.”

If same-sex marriage is legalized again, “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of activities surrounding it,” Prang said. “[West Hollywood] will certainly be a hub of activity.”

Roth, with Equality California, said an announcement could be made as early as 6:30 a.m. on Monday.



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