Calif. Poised For Court's Gay Marriage Decision

California's Supreme Court is expected to rule Tuesday on the fate of Proposition 8, the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, host:

And I'm David Greene.

Later this morning, the California Supreme Court is going to decide the fate of the state's ban on same-sex marriage. You'll remember the headlines when voters approved Proposition 8 last November. That measure defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Now the court is about to rule on whether that action was constitutional. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has been covering this battle over Prop 8, and she's joining us from Los Angeles with a preview of today's court ruling. Hey there, Karen.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Hi, David.

GREENE: I guess no one can be really sure of what the court is going to do. But it's not stopping people from making predictions.

BATES: You're absolutely right about that. The court's decision is confidential until it's posted this morning at 10 o'clock Pacific time. But many observers on both sides of Prop 8 are bidding that the court will actually uphold the ban on same-sex marriage. That seemed to be the tone among justices when they listened to oral arguments on Prop 8 about three months ago. As far as the court's concerned, this comes down to a technical legal argument. Was Prop 8 drafted in such a way that it makes the ban on same-sex marriage legal under the State's constitution? If the court says yes, then Prop 8 stands.

GREENE: Well, if we can, I just want to make sure we can recap how we got to this place. It's been a pretty back and forth legal journey since a few years ago, San Francisco allowed some same-sex marriages to take place. And the California Supreme Court got involved and upheld gay marriage in May of last year, and we had 18,000 or so gay couples getting married before November when we had the statewide initiative, and Prop 8 was passed. So these couples who got married during that window, what happens to them now?

BATES: Today, the court's expected to rule whether those marriages will remain valid. And many people here anticipate the justices will do two things. They'll let those 18,000 marriages stand while no more same-sex marriages can occur going forward, but the ones that happened in that brief window last year will remain legal.

GREENE: So we could get something of a compromise today.

BATES: You could. I think a lot of people are anticipating that the court does not want to overturn the will of the voters. And it also doesn't want to undo the marriages of couples who married in good faith when it was legal.

GREENE: And you've actually reported on some of those very couples who are married today. What do you think is running through their minds right now?

BATES: There's worry. There's a lot of anxiety, as you might imagine. But I can tell you that a lot of these couples told me that regardless of what the court says today, they will still consider themselves married. If the court lets those marriages stand, these 18,000, it's possible that some Prop 8 supporters may find that totally unacceptable and they may launch a new battle to have those marriages declared invalid.

GREENE: And Karen, let's look beyond today. Whatever the court decides, as I understand it, both sides still have legal options. This battle could keep going.

BATES: You're absolutely right. Both sides will be looking at what their options are. People who are supporters of Prop 8, who worked to get it passed, feel as if, look. We put this on the ballot. People voted for it. It should now be left to stand. People opposed to Prop 8 feel as if this is a civil rights matter, that the general public can't be allowed to vote on the rights and privileges of a protected population.

And they say that polls indicate Californians are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. So the war chests for a second campaign for marriage equality are already being readied, and supporters of Prop 8 have vowed to successfully oppose that a second time if they need to.

GREENE: Thanks so much for joining us, Karen.

BATES: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates in Los Angeles, where she and many more people are waiting for the decision from the California Supreme Court on Proposition 8.

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