18,000 Same-Sex Couples Await Ruling In California About 18,000 same-sex couples tied the knot during the months gay marriage was legal in the state last year. Now, they are waiting to find out whether the state Supreme Court will let a voter-passed ban on gay marriage stand or overturn it — and whether their marriages will be declared invalid.


18,000 Same-Sex Couples Await Ruling In California

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Here in California the state's Supreme Court will soon announce a ruling on same-sex marriage. A year ago, the court made it legal in California, only to be overruled by voters last fall. Now the justices will decide whether that vote was constitutional. As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, the court's decision could have an impact on many same-sex couples who've already wed.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Last May, after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages, there were lots of them, like this one for gay rights activists Robin Tyler and Diane Olsen.

Unidentified Woman #1: I now pronounce you spouse's for life in the sight of God, this community and all people.

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BATES: In all, about 18,000 couples married, but that ended last November when voters passed Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage. Scott Minko remembers being overjoyed about Barack Obama's triumph, but crushed over Prop 8's victory.

Mr. SCOTT MINKO: It was a really difficult, emotional time. I never felt so despondent and of two minds on the night of the election. It was a really tough time with Obama coming in and Prop 8 passing.

BATES: Minko and his partner Bill Delaman had a July 4 wedding, worrying that California voters might pass Prop 8 in the fall. Now, Minko says he's resigned to whatever the justices may do.

Mr. MINKO: I'm steeling myself for the expectation that when the decision comes down, that my marriage - that already occurred - will stand, and I expect that the Proposition 8, the voters' will, will be upheld.

BATES: In essence, that's what many experts are predicting. That the court may allow Prop 8 to stand but also allow the 18,000 couples to remain legally married, at least as far California is concerned.

Lisa Edwards, a reform rabbi in Los Angeles, presided over almost four dozen same-sex marriages in the five month window when they were legally recognized. She found many couples' joy was underlined by urgency.

Ms. LISA EDWARDS (Rabbi): I wouldn't say they exactly foresaw what was going to happen, but obviously, that there were so many weddings in that time period, people were worried that Prop 8 would pass and that this would be our only opportunity.

BATES: She and her partner, now spouse, Tracy Moore, were among that number. If the court decides to let the existing marriages remain valid, Edwards says she will feel relief and some awkwardness.

Ms. EDWARDS: I don't look forward to being in a specialized category of this little island of 18,000 whose marriages may be allowed to stand. It's a difficult place to put us in with regard to our friends and peers.

BATES: Tracy Moore says American's acceptance of same-sex marriage is only a matter of time.

Ms. TRACY MOORE: We never thought this was going to happen as soon as it's happened in America. And today, having five states be places where we could be married is a sea change.

BATES: The next step gay activists say, is not having to ask anyone other than their intended who they can marry. It was a point made last fall in a marriage equality video called, "Permission." An earnest young man goes from door-to-door across California asking strangers if he can marry his beloved.

Unidentified Man #1: Hello, sir. I'd like to ask for Megan's hand in marriage.

Unidentified Man #2: All right, son.

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you, sir.

Hi, ma'am. I've come to ask for Megan's hand in marriage.

Unidentified Woman #2: Ok.

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you.

BATES: The tagline reads, How would you feel if you had to ask 260 million people for the right to marry.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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