MARCH 26, 2013
Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage in California was historic simply because the issue reached the nation’s final arbiter.
But the questions posed by justices gave those engaged in the debate no clear indication that their side may prevail.
The hearing was punctuated from the start when Chief Justice John Roberts challenged attorneys defending Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in California over whether they had “standing” to be in court.
That line of questioning continued throughout, indicating in the view of some analysts that the court may in effect punt and dismiss the case as “improvidently granted.”
The effect would be to leave in place a lower-court ruling throwing out the 2008 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution and allow same-sex marriage to resume in the Golden State.
Opponents of Proposition 8 want the court to rule on the case and declare that the U.S. Constitution cannot deny same-sex couple the right to marry and have all the legal protections associated with marriage.
National polls indicate a slight majority of Americans are unopposed to same-sex marriage, but the difference between that group and those opposed is slim.
The division is also reflected in the position of many San Diegans and others throughout the region.
Mary Moran of La Mesa organized a rally in front of the federal courthouse in San Diego Tuesday morning in defense of Proposition 8. That was the same venue for an anti-Proposition 8 rally Monday evening.
“Marriage is a holy sacrament and the reflection of that is a man and woman,” Moran said after Tuesday’s gathering, where several local religious spoke in favor of “traditional marriage.”
“I hold marriage near and dear, and it is worth fighting for and defending,” she said.
Holding the opposite view is North County’s is Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Center in Oceanside.
“There are so many possibilities of how the court can rule, but hopefully we’ll get marriage equality back in California and in all the states,” he said. “The recent polls speak loudly about where people are today compared to just five years ago, and I’m very happy to see all the movement nationwide.”
Also trying to interpret the questioning at Tuesday’s hearing was Pastor Chris Clark from the East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church. Doing so is fraught with risk, he said.
“I do feel encouraged, but cautiously so,” he said. “Following a court or a judge or a panel of judges is equivalent to Forrest Gump and a box of chocolates ‑ you never know what you’re going to get,” he said in reference to the 1994 movie.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said he believes the fight over same-sex marriage needs to be resolved in its favor.
“I’ve been an advocate of marriage equality for more than a decade, and I will continue to fight for equal rights in Congress,” he said. “I look forward to the day when we cease these archaic battles and accept that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally under the law.”
But Bishop George McKinney at St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego said same-sex marriage is bad for society.
“I feel very strongly that it is very critical for the sake of the family and society that the meaning of marriage and the definition of marriage should not be changed,” he said. “No society in history has ever explicitly passed laws forbidding gay marriage, because until recently it was understood that marriage was between a man and a woman. To mess with that jeopardizes the very foundation of society.”
For Fernando Z. Lopez, public affairs director of San Diego LGBT Pride, it all boils down to equality.
“I’m very hopeful about the direction the country is going in and I can only hope that the Supreme Court justices recognize that this country was founded on equality and equal opportunity,” he said.
A favorable court ruling won’t end discrimination that gays and lesbians experience, Lopez said.
“Prop. 8 is an attack on our ability to love. But same-sex rights aren’t going to be solved in a few months by this case in the same way that women and minorities still have not received full equal rights.”
Olivia Nelson, a freshman at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Scripps Ranch, said she has gay friends and supports their right to join in civil unions. But she opposes same-sex marriage.
“Marriage is the place where children are brought into the world. It is so sacred to me,” she said. “I have a lot of friends who are gay, and I do think they deserve the same rights as everyone else, but marriage is where children are procreated.”
San Diego’s Ruben Barrales, head of GROW Elect, a statewide political action committee working to bring more Latinos into the Republican Party, said he would like to see the issue resolved.
“I think ultimately we are moving toward marriage equality ‑ that is the direction the country is moving in,” he said. “It’s important to respect the rights of all individuals, and I hope we can move beyond the tension of this issue.”
On Wednesday, the nine justices gather again to hear a challenge to the federal Defense Of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and prevents same-sex couples for benefits afforded married heterosexual couples.