UPDATED 6:10 p.m.
West Hollywood officials on Friday shared their reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement of its decision to hear cases that will determine the fate of California's gay-marriage ban and a challenge to a federal law that prevents married same-sex couples from receiving Social Security benefits or filing joint tax returns.
The Supreme Court was expected to hear arguments on the issue in March, with a decision likely by June.
The high court announced Friday that it would weigh in on the battle over Proposition 8, which was enacted by voters in 2008 but was deemed unconstitutional earlier this year by a federal appeals court panel. The Supreme Court also agreed to review the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted in 1996 and defined marriage solely as a union between opposite-sex couples.
Here's local reaction:
Mayor Jeffrey Prang: "This is a big day for LGBT Americans not just in West Hollywood but across the country. The Supreme Court is going to hear a case that for us is very much equivalent to Brown vs. Board of Education. If they rule to uphold the 9th Circuit Court's decision on Proposition 8, then marriage equality will be made available to all Americans. This will really be the culmination of years of activism and jurisprudence, and there will really be no basis for any type of discrimination to get housing and employment anywhere across the country. It's frustrating at the same time because people get to vote on our rights. There's no other class of American where their rights are subjected to a popular vote. There's no other class of American where their rights are subjected to review by the courts. And we have nine people who get to decide our fate. Fortunately Anthony Kennedy, one of the conservative justices, has been very strong on LGBT rights, on sodomy and other important issues that have come before the court, so we're optimistic. But if they vote against us, that would be a great setback. In a lot of ways this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but if they go against us that tunnel gets a little bit longer."
Councilman John Duran: "This is one of the final chapters in the LGBT history book. If the Supreme Court decides favorably on the issue of marriage equality, gay men and lesbians take a quantum leap forward to equality and justice. More importantly, long-term relationships in our community will receive the dignity and respect that heterosexual marriages enjoy. All eyes will be on the opinion of the swing vote—Justice Anthony Kennedy. I have great hope that he will follow the same reasoning he used when he struck down Amendment 2 in Colorado—that separate but equal cannot stand."
John O'Connor, Equality California executive director: "We are disappointed that loving same-sex couples in the state of California are going to have to continue to wait for marriage equality to be restored. But we have faith in the process, and we have faith in the arguments that are going to be heard in front of the Supreme Court. We will have our day in court."
Lester Aponte, Stonewall Democratic Club marriage equality chairman: "The Supreme Court, had they decided not to review the case, same-sex marriage would be resuming in California as early as next week. That would have been a tremendous victory. Now we have a lot of unknowns. We don't know why they took the case, we don't know what justices are thinking and how the case is going to come out. It's a very conservative court, so for a long time legal experts in the LGBT community have felt that the federal courts were not friendly place to argue for LGBT rights. They may turn out to be right in the end, we'll have to see. My biggest concern is that it's been four years since Prop. 8 passed, and it's depriving same-sex couples every day of their equal rights and dignity. It's depriving our entire community of our equal rights and dignity. It sends a very strong message that we are second-class citizens, that our lives and our relationships do not have the same value. That's very detrimental to our youth and all of us, not just in California but across the wolrd."
Norman Chramoff, West Hollywood resident: "This is going to be interesting to see what happens. I was actually at the Stonewall Riots, and I think this is a difficult Supreme Court. But if you look at Stonewall, and you look at now and you see the advancements we've made, I just think we have to be hopeful. We can't be part of the same thing and not be equal. ... I think it's even beyond marriage, it's about all of us having the same rights. If I pay the same taxes that you do, I want the same rights."
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the first openly gay man to be elected to the council: "For me, it's the most important thing that the Supreme Court rule, because what the states do is basically symbolic, unless the federal law is changed. This will have a broad impact on the whole nation. ... With this decision, we have a much better chance of seeing happen what we would like to see happen, basic civil and human rights for everyone."
Tom Watson, chairman of the Los Angeles-based group Love, Honor, Cherish, which was created in 2008 to support same-sex marriage: "As long as loving gay and lesbian couples continue to be denied their fundamental rights, our work is not done."
Jon Davidson, legal director of same-sex marriage advocate Lambda Legal, called the Supreme Court action "an exciting moment in our journey
toward equality. ... (The Defense of Marriage Act) is a terrible law that forces our government to discriminate against loving same-sex couples, and it is time for it to go. It is clear that DOMA's days are numbered. As for (Proposition 8), while the Supreme Court's decision to review the 9th Circuit's correct and carefully worded ruling delays the restoration of equal access to marriage for same-sex couples in California, we believe the lower-court rulings in California will stand."
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com and an opponent of same-sex marriage, said the court's decision to review the case is: "Good news for everyone who knows, deep in their hearts, that children do best with a married father and mother under the same roof. Without question, the Supreme Court should reserve marriage licenses exclusively for one man and one woman, not only for the sake of children and families, but for the sake of our republic. The California Constitution reserving marriage licenses for a man and a woman, as God created it, does not contradict anything in the text or history of the U.S. Constitution."
In March 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May of 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.
Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. The approval was followed by statewide protests and lawsuits challenging Proposition 8's legality.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 prior to its passage would remain valid.
Same-sex marriage supporters took their case to federal court, and U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 "both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.''
Backers of Proposition 8—ProtectMarriage.com—appealed to the 9th Circuit, because then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to do so. The appellate court heard arguments last year, but put a decision on hold while it awaited the state Supreme Court's ruling on the ability of Proposition 8 backers to press the case forward.
Once the state Supreme Court decided that Proposition 8 supporters had legal standing, the 9th Circuit moved ahead with its consideration of the case, hearing more arguments last December on a motion by Proposition 8 backers asking that Vaughn's ruling be thrown out because the judge was in a long-term same-sex relationship that he had not disclosed.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that the proposition's primary impact was to "lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California."
"It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain and use the designation of 'marriage' to describe their relationships,'' according to the court's decision. "Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California's interests in child-rearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples.
"Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents' rights to control their children's education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard those liberties."