Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will begin hearing two cases that will decide the fate of same-sex marriage -- Prop 8 and DOMA. According to Buzzfeed, people have been lining up outside the Supreme Court since last Thursday, hoping to score a front-row seat for the landmark proceedings.
Although we're not booking a flight to D.C., we're just as excited for the proceedings to begin. San Franciscans have dedicated themselves to the fight for marriage equality for nearly a decade -- in 2004, then-mayor Gavin Newsom started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (A critic told the New York Times that Newsom was "exhibiting lawlessness." More like exhibiting love!) And later that same year, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the state of California asking it to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage.
Since then, the battle has bounced through the courts. In 2008, same-sex marriages were permitted in California, then promptly banned with the passage of Prop. 8 that fall.
So just what, exactly, is going to happen tomorrow?
The hearing for Prop. 8 will begin (DOMA's hearing is set for Wednesday). Before making any decisions about the same-sex marriage ban itself, the judges will determine whether or not Prop. 8 supporters have the right to bring the case before the Supreme Court in the first place. Since state representatives, including Attorney General Kamala Harris and Governor Jerry Brown, have refused to defend Prop. 8, it's been left to the proposition's sponsors to protect the law.
As SF Gate reports, federal courts typically don't allow private citizens to defend public laws. So the Supreme Court may decide that Prop. 8's sponsors can't argue their case. If this happens, the justices will not make a ruling on Prop. 8, and the district court's 2010 decision, which said that that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, would stand.
However, if the Supreme Court allows Prop. 8's sponsors to argue their case, the justices will then decide on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.
Transcripts and audio recordings of the arguments will be released (and we'll be recapping those here so check back with Snitch for details). Then, the justices will deliberate and cast their votes, the results of which won't be revealed until June.
Ultimately, the decision will likely fall to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is expected to be the swing vote in the court. Kennedy has defended gay and lesbian couples before -- he opposed laws that restricted gay rights in Colorado and Texas -- but he also is a strong supporter of states' rights, which means he may not want to assert the federal court's power over decisions already made by the state.
Whatever happens, we'll keep you updated. In the meantime, you can browse this complete history of San Francisco's legal struggle for marriage equality and feel your heart swell with hometown pride.