News Column

Supreme Court to Hear Gay-marriage Case

March 26, 2013
Supreme Court

Scores of people huddled outside the U.S. Supreme Court early Tuesday hoping for a seat inside to hear the case for and against California's gay marriage ban.

Jason Wonacott, 25, arrived Friday hoping to be first in line but found 12 people ahead of him.

He told the Los Angeles Times Monday risking hypothermia under a poncho for five days was a way he could show his dedication to the gay marriage cause.

The first 60 people in line when the chamber opens Tuesday are likely to get seats, a court spokesman said.

"You have to be willing to do something bold and maybe a little bit crazy to show it is important," Wonacott, who is gay, told the Times.

Wonacott, who lives in Washington but grew up outside San Francisco, said he hoped the court would overturn California's Proposition 8 so he can eventually be married in his home state.

Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, was to come before the high court Tuesday. The next day, the justices are to weigh the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages blessed by states.

California's 2008 ballot initiative banning gay marriage won support from slightly more than 52 percent of voters and nullified a decision made five months earlier by the state's Supreme Court allowing the practice.

Prop 8 says in part, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

Neither California's governor nor its attorney general is defending the law in court. ProtectMarriage, an activist coalition against same-sex marriage, is the official proponent of the proposition and has been allowed to defend it in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the Obama administration told the Supreme Court California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

If the court rules same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, the ruling will come from the Proposition 8 case, known as Hollingsworth vs. Perry, and not Wednesday's narrower arguments about the Defense of Marriage Act, The New York Times said.

The court is expected to issue its opinion in June.

At Tuesday's hearing, each side will have 30 minutes to argue its case. Attorney Charles Cooper was to represent the Proposition 8 sponsor.

The plaintiffs' time was expected to be divided between attorney Theodore Olson, expected to have 20 minutes, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, taking 10 minutes, KGO-TV, San Francisco, said.

Nine states, Washington, D.C., and three American Indian tribes permit same-sex marriage. Nine states prohibit it by statute and 30 prohibit it in their constitutions.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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