Two Berkeley Women Who Challenged Prop 8 Say They Will Be Proud And Excited At Supreme Court Arguments Tuesday

Two Berkeley women whose bid to marry will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said Thursday they will be proud and excited to be in the courtroom in Washington, D.C., during the arguments.

But Kristin Perry, 48, and Sandra Stier, 50, said they want the focus to be on the case and not on themselves.

“We are very excited to have the end in sight,” said Perry. “We think that when we get to the Supreme Court and hear Ted Olson arguing on our behalf, we’ll be very proud and very moved.”

Olson, of Washington, D.C., is one of two lead attorneys in the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco in 2009 by Perry, Stier and gay couple Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank.

He will argue for the plaintiffs on Tuesday, urging the court to rule that Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

On the other side, Charles Cooper, also of Washington, D.C., representing the sponsors of Proposition 8, will be urging the court to uphold the 2008 voter initiative.

The sponsors, who contend that state voters were entitled to choose a traditional definition of marriage, are appealing a decision in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the measure last year.

Perry and Stier, who will fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday, spoke in interviews at the San Francisco office of Olson’s law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

“We feel honored to be in this role,” said Stier.

The two women said, however, that they don’t know where they’ll be sitting in the courtroom and don’t care whether the justices notice them or even know who they are. Instead, they said, they hope the justices will give all their attention to the arguments.

“Our job is just to bear witness at this point,” said Stier. “We’re just a California couple that wants to get married.”

The high court’s decision is expected by the end of June.

Perry is the executive director of the First Five Fund, an early-childhood advocacy group, and Stier is the information technology director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.

They have shared a household since 2000. Each had two sons when they met and they have raised the four children, now aged 18 to 24, together.

While the lawsuit has put them in the public eye, “at the end of the day, we’re thinking more about work and the kids,” Stier said.

“Life in our house has not changed very much. We still have the same mundane issues, go to work and are raising our children,” she said.

The three months between the arguments and the court’s expected decision in late June will be especially busy for the family, the two mothers said, because the youngest sons, 18-year-old twins, are finishing their senior year of high school.

“We have college admissions, the prom and graduation,” Stier said.

The plaintiffs contend that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment and due process and hurts gay couples and their children by denying them the status and benefits of marriage.

If the court decides to strike down the initiative, it could rule in a way that applies only to California, to eight states that currently allow domestic partnerships but not gay marriage, or to all 50 states.

“Our greatest hope is that it will impact as many people as possible,” said Stier. But she and Perry said they think that even a California-only ruling would set a precedent for other states.

At present, nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay and lesbian marriage while 41 others have prohibited it through laws or state constitutional amendments.

Perry and Stier were asked about Proposition 8 supporters’ argument that if same-sex marriage is to be allowed within the United States, the decision should be made on a state-by-state basis by voters or legislatures.

“It doesn’t resonate with me to do things state by state because I’m living in a state that doesn’t allow gay marriage,” Perry said. “What resonates with me is a permanent legal solution to our constitutional rights,” she said.

The two women said they hope to marry quickly if the court rules in their favor, but said they are waiting for the decision before making any plans.

If they win the case, Stier said, “it will be a lovely experience knowing we can get married and looking around and seeing that (gay and lesbian) young people have the same option and they can get married just like everybody else.”

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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