They’ve become the faces of the battle for same-sex marriage in California. Kris Perry and Sandy Spier are two of the plaintiffs in the Prop. 8 case that is set to go in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“The fact we’ve ended up in the highest court really wasn’t the intention or expected, but here we are,” Perry said. “And so for our family, it’s an important struggle. There’s been sacrifice and at the same time it’s a huge honor.”
At a news conference in San Francisco, the two mothers from Berkeley who said they’ve been together for more than 13 years, raising four sons together, added they feel confident both history and the law is on their side.
“We felt like our rights should not be subject to a vote – we’re a minority and a minority shouldn’t have to be at the whim of majority through voting and ballot box,” Spier said.
Public opinion is on their side. The latest Field Poll released this month found that 61 percent of California voters surveyed support same-sex marriage. That’s a flip from the 61 percent of California voters who passed Prop 22 back in 2000, which amended state law to recognize a marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Then there are the more than 130 amicus briefs filed by elected officials and other leaders, as well as more than 100 corporations, who all publicly support an overturn of Prop 8. It was also just last week when conservative Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman announced his support of same-sex marriage, becoming the first senator on his side of the aisle to do so.
Dennis Herrera, city attorney of San Francisco, said he remembers how difficult it was back in 2004 when city leaders and then-mayor Gavin Newsom invited same-sex couples to wed on the steps of City Hall.
“As you recall, there were a lot of people across country talking about this is too soon, too fast - and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Herrera, who is leaving for Washington D.C. on Sunday. “It’s tremendous rapid change no one thought was going to happen. But in terms of making a legal case, you don’t take things for granted. You make your arguments to those nine justices to build upon, to validate.”
On the other hand, Prop. 8 supporters, like the National Organization for Marriage, said the fact public support has shifted so much is the very reason why this issue should stay out of the courts and be up to voters in each state. Jon Eastman, NOM Board Chairman, pointed to what he said was a similar shift in public opinion on the issue of abortion in the 1960’s as an example of why the debate of same-sex marriage should not be left to the justices.
“We should leave Prop. 8 and DOMA in place and leave this to the political process. If people change their minds, we can implement through that mechanism,” Eastman told NBC Bay Area over the phone Thursday afternoon. He later added, “If the court steps in when there’s so much antagonism and takes the issue away from people, we’re going to lock in that antagonism for decades. “
For Perry, that reasoning doesn’t make any sense. “It doesn’t resonate for me personally as someone with no access to institution of marriage that waiting is a good idea or that we should let people vote up and down every election cycle whether somebody should have their fundamental rights or not.”
Spier added it’s not just about her family – it’s about the future generations.
“It’s very important for children to grow up feeling like they have the same protection as everybody else. They don’t have to worry about being second-class citizens when they grow up, so they don’t have to worry about what their future holds.”
So far, the District of Columbia and nine states have legalized same-sex marriage. Tuesday will be the start of a process that will determine wither California will be the eleventh to join those ranks.