Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Say Battle Isn't Over

The Supreme Court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin again in California. Voters passed the ban, known as Proposition 8, in November of 2008 banning same-sex marriage. The court said that the people bringing the appeal did not have legal standing to do so.

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Today's ruling on Proposition 8 appears to pave the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California. But opponents there say the long-running legal dispute is not over. NPR's Richard Gonzales has this reaction from San Francisco.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: This city has been ground zero for same-sex marriage since 2004 when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom first authorized marriage licenses for gay couples. Nine years of legal wrangling later, hundreds of people, all supporters of same-sex marriage, swarmed to city hall this morning. Many arrived even before the sun was up to wait to hear the news from the Supreme Court. So when the high court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act was announced, the crowd erupted.

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GONZALES: Then, a few minutes later, there was another cheer for the news that Prop 8 had been struck down, too, albeit on narrower, technical grounds.

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GONZALES: That decision amounted to a sweet moment for a somewhat subdued former San Francisco mayor and now California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. He called the fight for marriage equality a sweeping journey.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM: And its a journey that inspires. It doesn't coerce. We're not motivated by this cause of equality. We're inspired by it because it's a fundamental principle that defines the best of who we are, our human dignity, our self-worth, our humanity. So thank you all very much...

GONZALES: It took San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to remind the audience that when city leaders first endorsed same-sex marriage nine years ago, many skeptics thought they were crazy. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA and essentially punted on Prop 8, Herrera said San Francisco has proved the doubters wrong.

DENNIS HERRERA: And to all those people that talk about we were moving too fast, too soon, well, heck, now we have 12 states and the District of Columbia that have marriage equality. And now, California will have it restored once again.

GONZALES: Yet, it's not entirely clear when same-sex marriages will resume. The Supreme Court's decision on Prop 8 takes 25 days to take effect, at which time the U.S. 9th Circuit is expected to vacate its stay on those marriages. Attorney General Kamala Harris says the state will press the appellate court to act soon.

ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS: We cannot delay or deny individuals their civil rights. And for that reason, again, I urge the 9th Circuit to lift the stay as quickly as possible.

GONZALES: And Governor Jerry Brown, in a statement, says he has directed the State Department of Public Health to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the 9th Circuit lifts its stay. All of this is a very bitter pill to proponents of DOMA and Prop 8.

CHRIS CLARK: I believe that marriage as a man and a woman, traditional biblical marriage is so fundamentally vital to the health and the welfare of society, that it was worth standing up and speaking out on and defending.

GONZALES: Chris Clark is a Southern Baptist pastor in San Diego and a key grassroots supporter of California's gay marriage ban. Clark says he's disappointed that the high court ignored the 52 percent of voters who approved Prop 8.

CLARK: To say that we, as the voters of California, have no standing and our attorneys had no standing before the court, who is there to advocate for us, who is there to speak for the people? And the Supreme Court, apparently, said nobody.

GONZALES: The official defenders of Prop 8, a group called protectmarriage.com, say they haven't conceded the legal battle. In a statement, they say they will seek a continued enforcement of the same-sex marriage ban until a statewide order is issued. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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