Rep. Nancy Pelosi got Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom-- the former San Francisco mayor whose actions launched the litigation -- a seat in the courtroom Tuesday.
“I don’t want to overstate it, but literally when I walked in, I had a feeling I had never had before. People talk about a rush of motions. You literally feel this rush through your body. It was very powerful.”
He said the arguments were technical and legal but he came away with the sense that same-sex marriages would resume in June in California, and that the high court’s ruling would be narrow.
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“I think the likelihood of marriages resuming in June, from my perspective, only increased based upon the oral argument.”
He said many people, including his father, a Catholic, and some friends and political allies condemned him for deciding to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February 2004. The California Supreme Court later invalidated those marriages, and the city joined a successful suit to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“There’s a lot of wounds, a lot of scars” from the criticism he took, he said. “Those were difficult years and lonely.”
Still, he said, he reflects back on his decision with pride, not regret. The weddings on the steps of City Hall, which Chief Justice Ronald M. George could see from his chamber windows, put a human face on the issue.
Happy same-sex couples with children and parents in tow popped champagne and hugged under showers of rice. Cars honked their horns in celebration.
“Those images of the people on the steps of City Hall had an impact,” Newsom said. “If there is anything that is missing now, at this time, it is those images. They reminded people that this was not a legal brief, but civil rights.”
“If there was anything missing in the courtroom today, it was the human side.”
CHEAT SHEET: Your guide to Prop. 8 and DOMA
The Times' David G. Savage reported that the justices sounded closely split, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that the court should strike down the California ban without ruling broadly on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Twice Kennedy questioned why the court had even voted to hear the California case. “I wonder if this case was properly granted,” he said at one point.
His comments suggested that the court’s four most conservative justices voted to hear the California case. Had the justices turned down the appeal, as Kennedy suggested, Proposition 8 would have been struck down as ruled by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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