Approximately 200 people gathered this morning outside the James R. Browning US Federal Courthouse to hear stories and words of encouragement before today’s oral arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The arguments will be heard by a panel of judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Marriage Equality USA organized the event, which included Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, NCLR’s Kate Kendell, Lambda Legal’s Jenny Pizer, Rev. Roland Stringfellow, Marriage Equality USA’s Molly McKay & Davina Kotulski, Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis and couples wanting to marry.
“These are strange times,” remarked Jenny Pizer, Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal. Pizer noted that California is lagging behind the rest of the world, as same-sex couples in five US states and Washington DC enjoy the freedom to marry, as well as places around the globe including Argentina, South Africa and Mexico City. Further, she noted that Massachusetts, the state with the longest period of marriage equality, also had the lowest divorce rate of any state.
Pizer continued, noting that “…the issues today are not just procedural technicalities; these are important rules that tell us who’s actually being wronged.” She explained to me later that one of the key matters to be determined today is justiciability.
“Justiciability asks, is there a live dispute? Are the plaintiffs legally recognizable?” said Pizer. “The court makes a distinction between litigants who are being harmed or who will be harmed, as opposed to people who have a strong feeling about an issue.”
As I made my way up the courthouse steps, a Christian with a bullhorn and a huge yellow sign that read, “HOMO SEX IS SIN,” yelled from across the street: “You are an abomination!” He continued, “You don’t know anything about marriage! You don’t know anything about love! You know about lust!”
As I waited in line, I thought about what NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendall said at the rally. She referenced the fact that this case began 7 years ago (referencing the initial marriage cases that occurred after Gavin Newsom started marrying people in 2004). “Seven years—that’s a blink of an eye in the context of civil rights movements. But do you have any doubt how the final chapter of this story will be written? We know how the end of this story goes.”