SACRAMENTO — After Tuesday's historic arguments before the Supreme Court on the legality of California's gay marriage ban, the long wait began for the court's June decision.
But the debate over Proposition 8, the state's 2008 ballot initiative, raged on among advocates and legal experts. Hundreds of gay-rights activists planned demonstrations in San Francisco and on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, and hundreds more demonstrated for and against same-sex marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court building.
California's gay and lesbian couples remain on hold for now, uncertain about the outcome but hopeful that the court will recognize their desire to marry as an equal right under law.
"I have a good feeling that this is a new beginning," said Sacramentan Diana Luiz, 52, who would like to marry her partner of seven years, Nicola Simmersbach. "This may be one of the great civil rights fights we'll have in this country."
The proposition's author, attorney Andy Pugno, was optimistic, as well.
"I thought we had a great day in the Supreme Court," he said after attending the hearing in Washington. "We clearly made the winning case for Proposition 8 and are looking forward to a good decision upholding the vote of California."
But some legal experts considered his optimism unfounded, considering that the justices spent time discussing whether Pugno's advocacy group, Protect Marriage, should have the legal right to challenge the appellate ruling that reversed Proposition 8.
Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's passage of the ballot measure denied the state's gay and lesbian citizens a right they briefly had during a few months in 2008, when some 18,000 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses.
"I don't think Andy should be thrilled, nor should anybody on his side," said McGeorge School of Law professor Larry Levine. "I think there's a likelihood that they'll strike down Proposition 8."
The Rev. Michael Schiefelbein, pastor at College Avenue Church in Modesto, sees the argument as one of fairness for those gay couples already married and those who wish to. "Those 18,000 marriages continued to be recognized as legal marriages after the passing of Proposition 8, but we believe that justice will be achieved only when the right of all same-sex couples to marry is upheld," he said Tuesday.
Marian Martino, a Modesto business owner, was one of those who was married before Proposition 8 took effect. "No citizens were harmed in the legal acknowledgment of my relationship and marriage, yet many same-sex couples suffer discrimination as a result of not being afforded the right to marry," she said. "Perhaps soon we can truly say 'with liberty and justice for all,' not just some."
In San Francisco, Catholics for the Common Good President Bill May, whose organization was part of the coalition working to pass Proposition 8, worried that if the justices' rule in favor of same-sex marriage, traditional families will suffer.
"We have a terrible situation in the United States where the family is in collapse," he said. "Too many kids are deprived of a mother and father united in marriage ...
"What's being proposed with overturning Proposition 8 is the elimination of the only institution (that protects traditional families)."
Regardless of how the court rules and how broad or narrow its decision is, Levine, the McGeorge law professor, thinks the ultimate outcome for same-sex marriage remains the same.
"We know how the story will end," he said. "In the next year or two or five, state after state after state will allow gays and lesbians to marry. It's pure demographics."
Modesto Bee Senior Editor Dave Lyghtle contributed to this report.