(Photo: AP Images / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Traditional marriage supporters are optimistic that Proposition 8 will stand after oral arguments were heard Thursday by the California Supreme Court.
"Of course, we can never be certain how a court will rule until the decision is actually issued, but today's arguments were very encouraging for those who worked so hard to ensure the passage of Prop. 8," said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization.
As thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the gay marriage debate stood outside at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza, several justices inside the Supreme Court chambers were expressing skepticism toward arguments by the gay rights attorneys.
The challengers of Proposition 8 – a ballot measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman that was passed by 52 percent of California voters in November – argued that the measure was placed before voters prematurely and was an invalid constitutional "revision." Revisions can only be made by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a constitutional convention, the lawyers said.
They also argued that Proposition 8 violates the inalienable right to marry.
Kenneth W. Starr, who was representing the proponents of Proposition 8, told the court that the measure was properly enacted and that "the people have the inalienable right to control their constitution."
"Describing Proposition 8 as a revision to the state constitution, depends on characterizing Proposition 8 as a radical departure from the fundamental principles of the California Constitution," Starr said. "But that portrayal is wildly wrong.
"Proposition 8 is limited in nature and effect. It does nothing more than restore the definition of marriage to what it was and always had been under California law before June 16, 2008 – and to what the people had repeatedly willed that it be throughout California's history. It is now part of the state constitution."
According to observations by the Pacific Justice Institute, the high court justices "were not buying" the arguments of the gay rights lawyers. Moreover, some of the justices "seemed hesitant to overturn a direct act of the people."
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, also acknowledged to The Los Angeles Times that the court appeared skeptical of their arguments.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard, who has traditionally supported gay rights, said Proposition 8 "hasn't destroyed equal protection," as reported by the LA Times.
"I think what you are overlooking is the very broad powers of the people to amend the Constitution," she said. "What I am picking up from this case is that the court should willy-nilly disregard the will of the people."
Lawyers and supporters of traditional marriage were pleased with Thursday's hearing.
"It appeared there was a broad understanding on the court that ultimately the inalienable right of the people to amend our Constitution will determine the outcome of the case," said Andrew P. Pugno, a lawyer for Proposition 8, according to the LA Times.
At the same time, it seems likely the court will continue to recognize the 18,000 same-sex marriages that were performed between May and November of 2008.
In May 2008, the state Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage.
The court will issue its ruling within 90 days.