For more than 40 years, Mina Meyer and Sharon Raphael have been together and they have twice been married.

So, as a practical matter, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision whether to review a challenge to Proposition 8 won't affect their life together.

Still, Meyer of Long Beach is looking forward to having her union validated.

"Marriage is an important thing that normalizes and removes stigma," the long-time Long Beach activist said. "It's just one thing, but it's important."

The U.S. Supreme Court today could decide to review a challenge to Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage approved by California voters in 2008.

And it may hear at least one case challenging the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

The court could open the door for same-sex marriage nationwide or keep the issue at a state-by-state level.

Lower courts have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage proponents, including the California case called Perry v. Brown.

Activists on both sides of the debate are anxious to see what the court does.

Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, senior pastor of the Claremont United Methodist Church, said her congregation has stood against Proposition 8 and is hopeful it will be overturned.


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"We do think it's unjust," she said. "Having said that, it seems to me like it would be important for the Supreme Court to wrestle with this issue, but that's risky."

Wickett said there are a number of gay and lesbian members of the church who have felt marginalized by the legislation as well as the stances taken against same-sex marriage by other churches.

"I think that just furthers their sense of not being recognized as a full human being that they are, and in the church context, being seen as a full child of God that they are," she said.

"We're really clear that that's wrong, and it doesn't affect anybody. It doesn't affect a heterosexual marriage that there would be homosexual marriage."

But that wouldn't sit well with those who oppose same-sex marriage and also believe such a move by the court would be judicial activism of the worst kind.

Among them is Lawrence Hebron, president of the San Bernardino-based Alliance of Christian Patriots.

"I think if the Supreme Court were acting in a strict constructionist point of view, there is no way they could allow for homosexual marriage," Hebron said. "The founders never conceived of this issue. If the court is going to behave according to the original intent (of the Constitution), there is no way they can accept this."

Hebron said American law is rooted in biblical principles. In quoting from the Declaration of Independence, he said rights are endowed by a creator.

He said rights therefore should conform with Scripture.

"This is not a matter of hatred or anything like that," Hebron said. "People talk about being homophobic. That is not the case at all. It's God knows best."

Eden Anderson, an organizing member of the Redlands-based Equality Inland Empire, said if the justices decide not to review the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Proposition 8 violates the state Constitution's equal-protection guarantee, same-sex couples will immediately look to get married.

"It's significant no matter what they do," Anderson said. "If they don't take it, that means the lower court (ruling) will stand that it was unconstitutional and hopefully within a day or immediately after, we'll start getting legally unioned."

Depending on what the justices decide today, it may take months for them to issue a decision on same-sex marriage.

"If they take the case tomorrow, it will be argued in the court in March or April and assuredly won't be decided until June," said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, on Thursday.

Chemerinsky believes the Supreme Court will take one of the cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act, but had no predictions regarding what it would do with Proposition 8.

Because the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision doesn't conflict with other courts of appeals, the Supreme Court may decide not to review it, Chemerinsky said.

However, he said if the justices hear the Proposition 8 case, they likely will declare the controversial law unconstitutional anyway.

That would probably be a 5-4 vote with justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan striking down the law, Chemerinsky said.

"If the Supreme Court denies review, then the 9th Circuit decision stands, Prop 8 is unconstitutional and very quickly we would have gay and lesbian marriages," Chemerinsky said.

Some say either decision by the U.S. Supreme Court would be a victory for the equal rights movement.

"We've seen a lot of momentum over the last month with the ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland and Washington, and then the defeat of the Constitutional amendment in Minnesota, so this is just continuing the momentum toward equality for all Americans and for all Americans that believe in marriage equality," said Manny Rivera, spokesman for the American Foundation for Equal Rights in Los Angeles

Rivera said if the court denies hearing the case, then same-sex marriage will be reinstated in the state as soon as next week.

But, if the court decides to hear the case, it will be a first.

"Given the momentum we've seen over the last couple of months and years really, it would be a huge victory toward the movement of marriage equality," he said. "If not, our victories would go into effect and marriage would resume in California, which would double the number of states where Americans can marry equitably."

Meyer said for Californians, whether the Supreme Court hears the case or not, it is a victory for gay married couples. If the court doesn't hear the case, as she expects will happen, then Prop. 8 is nullified and gay marriage is upheld in the state.

The bigger prize, of course, would be a federal decision that would make gay marriage the law of the land and affect hundreds of laws and benefits now enjoyed by heterosexual couples. These include insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, immigration and the filing of joint tax returns.

"Would I like to instead have the Supreme Court take it on, hear arguments in court and make it legal everywhere? Sure," Meyer said.

However the former member of the Long Beach Human Rights Commission, who says she's followed the issue closely, doesn't think the current Supreme Court is ready to take on such a weighty and divisive issue and will rather wait several years.

"If they made a decision like Roe vs. Wade or Brown vs. the Board, I would like that, but there would be a lot of upset people, particularly in the bright red states," Meyer said.

While Meyer says it would be nice to "have society smile on you," she says she and Raphael plan to continue their activism for issues beyond marriage.

The couple was married in 2004, when gay marriages were being performed in San Francisco, and again in Long Beach on August 24, 2008, on their 40th anniversary after the courts nullified their previous union.

"We've been working for the civil rights we want," Meyer said, and that won't end today or Monday.

Still, she would like to hear the court's decision, soon rather than later.