Equal rights, say Prop 8 plaintiffs, can't be ignored

9:01 PM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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SAN FRANCISCO - Kris Perry and Sandy Steir are doing what actors or authors often do before the premiere of a big blockbuster: patiently answer the same questions they've no doubt been asked a million times, trying to hone their message into a memorable quip, then doing short one-on-one interviews with one journalist after another, after another.

And, in a way, their big blockbuster plays in the largest theater of its kind in a matter of days: the Supreme Court of the United States, where they are asking the nine justices to uphold a lower court's ruling that would scrap California's ban on gay marriage.

"We are, of course, a couple that's being discriminated against," says Steir as her partner of 13 years nods in agreement.

The Berkeley women, parents to four boys and married -- then unmarried -- during the 2004 frenzy in San Francisco, will be sitting in the courtroom next week in Washington, D.C. to hear an hour's worth of oral arguments in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.  The case is an appeal by supporters of Prop 8, a last chance to save the 2008 ballot measure that a federal judge and an appeals court have found unconstitutional.

Their attorneys, the politically opposite but now united Theodore Olson and David Boies, are asking the high Court to not only legalize gay marriage in California, but to also recognize a right that could be exercised by same sex couples across the country. And even if the justices make a more limited right to same sex marriage, the couple says they will feel victorious.

"Even if it's narrow, in the sense that it's focused on California, there are so many ways in which that ruling might help other states," says Perry.  "We set out to repeal Proposition 8, and we hope that's the outcome."

The two women, though not shy, have never campaigned in the press for their lawsuit.  Thursday's group interview with local and regional reporters was limited to a small number of news outlets.

(The other party in Tuesday's case, former state Senate GOP leader Dennis Hollingsworth, declined a request for an interview prior to Tuesday's court hearing.)

Inside a large conference room at the offices of their law firm, the two women take turns answering the questions thrown their way.

What did your kids think about you becoming one of two couples filing this lawsuit in 2009?

"We discussed it with each of the boys before," says Perry.  "We're united around this as a family."

How do you think the decision of the Obama administration to join your cause (via an amicus brief) impacts the case?

"We're happy that the president wants to take a stand," says Steir.

How do you feel about polls showing voters may be shifting their stance, and are more willing to support gay marriage?

The women say they think it's a great sign of hope.

In our own chat later, the couple expresses their own hope... that successful changes in the law in nine other states, plus the District of Columbia, may make the greatest impact.

"You know, I'm from the relatively conservative state of Iowa," says Steir.  "And when I go to Iowa, I don't see any degradation of life in Iowa because gay people can get married. In fact, I see that people seem to be fine."

The justices are expected to rule on the legality of Prop 8 by summertime.  And no, say Perry and Steir, they haven't made any wedding plans... not yet.


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