More than two years after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide today if it will take up the landmark gay-marriage case.
If it elects not to grant review, gay and lesbian Californians who have waited for years to wed are preparing to do so as early as next week.
The court is expected to announce its decision Monday, though it could come as early as today.
"We have our rings and clothing and all of that," said Diana Luiz of Sacramento. "We just want them to say it's legal."
Luiz, 52, and her partner, Nicola Simmersbach, 50, hoped to wed two years ago, after U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker's historic ruling overturning Proposition 8.
But gay marriages were put on hold while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case, and then as proponents of Proposition 8 appealed to the Supreme Court.
For years the case was expected to be decided there and it still may be.
The prospect of a Supreme Court review was dimmed, however, by the narrow legal ground on which the appeals court upheld Walker's ruling.
In its February decision, the appeals court ruled that California wrongly stripped gays and lesbians of a right they previously enjoyed, as gay marriages were allowed for several months after the California Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage before the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008.
The appeals court did not consider the broader question of whether gays and lesbians may ever be denied such a right, likely lessening the interest of the nation's highest court, said Courtney Joslin, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.
The Supreme Court is far more likely, Joslin and other scholars said, to consider one of several other gay marriage cases. Those cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
In the Proposition 8 case, California's stay on gay marriages could be lifted within hours but more likely within days if the high court declines to hear the matter.
Plenty of preparations are under way for that option.
Weddings planned Tuesday
In Sacramento, gay rights activists are recruiting volunteers to officiate weddings at the state Capitol on Tuesday, while Los Angeles and San Francisco officials asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week to provide 24 hours notice before allowing gay marriages to proceed.
"In prior instances when decisions were issued in this and other cases relating to marriage for same-sex couples, there have been large gatherings, including protesters, in the Civic Center area of San Francisco," wrote Therese Stewart, San Francisco's chief deputy city attorney. "Those gatherings have included both people who favor and people who oppose marriage for same-sex couples. While, thus far, these gatherings have not involved significant violence, they have involved heated rhetoric, expressions of intense emotion and confrontations between people who strongly disagree."
Gay rights activists are divided about their hopes for Supreme Court action, knowing that if the court declines to hear the case it will not set a precedent nationwide.
"I'm torn," said Shara Murphy, executive director of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center. "It's tough to see couples here in Sacramento who are friends, who if they just deny (a) hearing would be able to marry this year. ... But as far as a civil rights struggle, of course, it would be great to have it heard."
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.