Justices hear arguments on Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban

San Diegans in DC for landmark gay marriage cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court over California's voter-approved Proposition 8 centered Tuesday on a procedural issue, which could lead to a limited decision on same-sex marriage that might not apply nationwide, a San Diego law school professor said.

Several justices, including some liberals who seem open to gay marriage, raised doubts Tuesday that the case is properly before them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all. A decision is expected in June.

The high court justices are considering whether to overturn the 2008 initiative that defined marriage as being between a man and woman. Voters passed the measure in a hotly contested race five months after the state Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal.

In the aftermath, Prop. 8 was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Julie Greenberg, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, told City News Service that arguments before the nation's high court came down to whether supporters of the initiative were allowed to bring an appeal in the first place -- a legal concept called standing.

"What was interesting was -- the three people who did the arguments -- (the justices) forced them into talking about standing," Greenberg said. "It went a bit different than what I would have expected."

When the lawyers tried to swing the discussion toward the merits, they focused on the amount of harm the two sides would suffer if given an adverse ruling, and the level of scrutiny that should be placed on state marriage laws, she said.

Greenberg said even the more progressive justices did not appear interested in requiring same-sex marriage nationwide. A ruling based on standing would only apply to California, according to the professor.

In San Diego Tuesday, proponents of Proposition 8, rallied downtown. They said the issue is about maintaining traditional marriage and the right for every child to have a mother and a father.

"This is about love that perpetuates the human race, in other words, we are a society that seems to be fraught with obsession with pleasure," said Hugh Largey, who is against same-sex marriage.

Opponents of Prop. 8 held a rally attended by hundreds Monday night. They held signs and showed support for same-sex marriage.

"We are here, we are standing in support of the freedom to marry for all gay, lesbian and bisexual couples," said one supporter of same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court is also expected to review the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which also defines marriage as between a man and woman. At issue is whether the federal act violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because it denies homosexual couples the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

For example, gay or lesbian members of the armed forces in long-term committed relationships receive a single person's pay rate while their married straight counterparts are paid more. The distinction also affects access to base housing, health and survivor benefits.

10News Scientific Poll: Californians weigh in on Prop. 8

Audio recording and unofficial transcript: March 26, Prop. 8 oral arguments

Court Documents: Filings in the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases

Two San Diego pastors on different sides of the debate traveled to Washington, D.C., to march in front of the Supreme Court and pray that the justices will reach the "right" conclusion.

Jim Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church in La Mesa, opposes marriage between anyone but a man and woman, while Pastor Darryl Kistler of Kensington Community Church supports same-sex unions, according to U-T San Diego.

Thousands of others from across the country also flocked to the capital for the same reasons.

"For those who call themselves Christian, the Bible begins with the marriage of a man and a woman and closes with the wedding of a bride and a groom," Garlow said.

Kistler believes the high court will disagree.

"We are one human family," Kistler said. "I truly believe the arc of justice is blowing in the direction of recognizing same-sex marriage as loving and just."

The majority of states have banned same-sex marriage outright. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow it and New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island prohibit the unions but do not have statutory or constitutional enforcement.

A 10News scientific poll showed that 52 percent of Californians believe the Supreme Court should uphold the appeals court ruling and end Prop. 8. Meanwhile, thirty-two percent said the ruling should be overturned.