CONCORD -- A procession of about 45 placard-carrying demonstrators from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community (LGBTQ) followed the pathways though Todos Santos Plaza to meet for a vigil in response to the Supreme Court hearing arguments on two cases involving marriage for same-sex couples.
Justices took up Hollingsworth v. Perry on March 26, challenging the constitutionality of California Proposition 8, a law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The U.S. v. Windsor case, which challenges the constitutionality of the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law during President Bill Clinton's administration, was heard March 27.
At the plaza, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, told the group, "This has been a long journey. The court is not going to hold back social progress."
Directly across the street, a group of people from about 25 local Christian churches wrapped up a 40-hour prayer vigil at the Vineyard Community Center with a program of music, art and a prayer for park demonstrators.
"We were there to seek God's help in expanding his kingdom here," said Dean Honnette, lead pastor of the Hope Center Covenant Church. "We were praying for everybody in the valley."
Though not at the vigil for political purposes, one member in attendance supported traditional marriage.
At the plaza gathering, self-described "straight ally" Leslie Steward spoke on behalf of the Rainbow Community Center, encouraging those gathered and recalling past success. "We turned Contra Costa around between 2002 and 2008."
The mission of the Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa, which is supported by federal, state and county initiatives, and private foundations and donors, is to build community and promote well-being among LGBTQ persons and allies.
The Rev. Will McGarvey, president of the center and board member of More Light Presbyterians, continued the confident tone noting that, "There are 200 churches accepting same-sex marriages."
Mark Kahn of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek said he wanted to put a face on the cause, explaining that he and his partner TJ had been together for 15 years and are looking forward to a wedding.
California already grants all rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. It is just not called marriage. The court decision of Prop. 8 could have various outcomes related to Kahn's plans.
The Supreme Court could decide that Hollingsworth does not have standing (not the proper legal party to defend Prop. 8). Normally the governor, representing the people, would defend the law, had he agreed with it.
With no standing, the Supreme Court would likely not rule on the case, which would leave the federal Ninth Circuit Court decision to strike down Prop. 8 standing, but not affect other states.
The Supreme Court could also decide to proceed, agree with Perry, finding Prop. 8 unconstitutional and the decision could apply to eight other states that recognize same-sex couple relationships, giving them all the rights of marriage, but calling it something else.
A final potential outcome is that the Justices declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and the ruling applies throughout the country.
The DOMA case is about an 83-year old New York woman, who after her partner of 40 years died, was required to pay taxes on the home they had occupied.
Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, but DOMA precludes recognizing the marriage of a same-sex couple. Had they been a heterosexual married couple or possibly owned the property as joint tenants, there would have been no tax at that time.
The outcome of the two cases is not expected until June, but according to Steward, the court decisions will not diminish determined efforts now working in 12 states to change laws relating to marriage and gender.
"Don't forget about our prayers that need to go to Washington, D.C.," Steward said. "We have to just think them into doing the right thing."
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.