Will California gay-marriage trial go to Supreme Court?
As a federal court considers the constitutionality of a voter-approved ban in California, some gay-marriage advocates say a Supreme Court decision could be the best path to legalization.
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Until now, gay-marriage advocates had been largely lock step in pursuing a state-by-state strategy. And it appeared to be working. Courts in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa have legalized same-sex marriage while legislatures in Vermont and New Hampshire have extended marriage to gay couples. In December, the city council in the District of Columbia voted to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.Skip to next paragraph
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But voters in 31 other states have passed laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, sending a message that despite growing acceptance of same-sex civil unions, most Americans oppose expanding the institution of marriage to same-sex couples. Last November, Maine voters overturned a state law legalizing gay marriage. Soon after, New York lawmakers defeated a gay-marriage bill, and earlier this month the New Jersey Senate rejected a bill to legalize gay marriage.
A battle focused on the ballot box and state legislatures is now shifting to the courts. After gay-marriage advocates were dealt a setback by the New Jersey Senate, they pledged to go to the state Supreme Court. In Boston, a gay-rights group has filed a suit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
Initially, a divide over Prop. 8 challenge
That shift may explain the softening of the initial opposition in the gay-rights movement to the San Francisco challenge. Last May, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal denounced the lawsuit as the wrong strategy for California's gay community. Since then, all three have filed briefs supporting it.
Plaintiffs in the case against Proposition 8 are two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and her longtime partner, Sandra Stier, along with Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. But the driving force behind the lawsuit is the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a well-funded gay-rights group. It hired an unlikely but prominent pair of litigators. Democratic attorney David Boies and conservative Theodore Olson were on opposing sides in the Gore v. Bush case that decided the 2000 presidential election, but they have found common ground in their support for gay marriage.
Defeat in the US Supreme Court, where many see this case headed, would be a major setback for a movement that has seen steady gains over the past decade.