The Gathering Storm: Lawyers, Loonies, Activists Ready for Prop. 8 Battle

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Civic Center Plaza, 6:58 a.m.

By 7 a.m., the anti-homosexual zealots were roaring, the police were telling the guy with the Sodomy-Will-Destroy-America message mounted on his Japanese-made truck to move along, and the gay and lesbian chorus with the pink-haired director (quite good!) were warming up. A massive TV screen of the sort erected in European town squares during the World Cup loomed over Civic Center Plaza. You know, what we need here are some lawyers.

Somewhat less than a battalion -- but more than a platoon -- of the attorneys arguing the repeal of Proposition 8 in this morning's Supreme Court hearing spoke to the media at a 7:30 a.m. press conference. Not wanting to utter the next "Whether you like it or not" statement, each of the speakers was relentlessly on point - I didn't notice a whole lot of scribbling in reporters' notebooks, and, honestly, why waste your best lines on an assemblage of half-asleep reporters when you'll be in front of the State Supreme Court 90 minutes later? Still, here's a few of the standouts:

Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney: "This is a fight for the equality of all Californians; that is what is at issue today."

The Rev. Art Cribbs, United Church of Christ: "Proposition 8 never should have been placed on the ballot. It's not right to have the population vote upon the rights of others."

Gloria Allred: Would you believe that "celebrity lawyer" Allred was the only one to actually launch into the legal nitty-gritty of how Prop. 8 violates the state constitution's equal protection clause? Would you believe she spoke very rapidly to a roomful of non-legal specialists at 7:30 a.m.?


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By the time the clock struck 8, Civic Center Plaza was nearly half full. Incidentally, reports of pro-gay marriage activists camping out the night before turned out to be somewhat erroneous. First off, say what you will about San Franciscans, but you don't need to camp out at City Hall to make it downtown by 9 a.m. Around a dozen activists did attempt to set up tents on the steps of the Supreme Court at 350 McAllister yesterday, but, according to one, the police booted them out by 11:30 p.m. last night. Apparently, you can hang out on the steps all night, but once you fall asleep, you're "lodging" - which is verboten. A pair of activists stayed in a tent, overnight, and were gone by 5 a.m.

Finally, the pressing question of what comes next. A ruling is expected within 90 days and one side will, by design, be sorely disappointed. Should the State Supreme Court spurn gay marriage activists, the logical next step is to begin gathering signatures for a ballot proposition repealing Prop. 8 - an effort that is already under way. An appeal to the Federal Supreme Court would be unlikely; gay marriage proponents do not seem comfortable with the likes of Antonin Scalia or Sam Alito getting the final ruling on this case.

Should the judges give gay marriage the green light, it is also unlikely Prop. 8 supporters would appeal to the Supreme Court - the lawsuit in this case seems to have taken pains to avoid bringing up any federal questions. Gay marriage foes could attempt to alter the state constitution via a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or a constitutional convention -- or the more likely reaction of attempting to recall Supreme Court Justices who vote in favor of gay marriage.

That latter threat is undoubtedly dwelling in the back of Justices' minds today as they mull the case.

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