The Obama administration weighed in today on California's Proposition 8, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage. In addition to the Justice Department's brief on behalf of the president, more than 100 high-profile Republicans submitted their own brief earlier this week also urging the justices to strike down Prop 8. All this comes on top of a poll that suggests if the proposition was put before California voters again, they wouldn't approve it.
KQED's Stephanie Martin spoke to advocates on both sides of the issue: Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Bill May, head of Catholics for the Common Good.
STEPHANIE MARTIN: It's been a big week for same-sex marriage supporters. Today the Obama administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8, the measure that outlawed gay marriage in California in 2008. Earlier this week, more than 100 prominent Republicans also signed a "friend-of-the-court" brief in favor of striking down the measure. Supreme Court justices take up the case next month.
Today we have reaction from local leaders who've been fighting over this issue for years.
First, attorney Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Ms. Kendell, these briefs are not legally binding, and Supreme Court justices can take them or leave them. So why are you so excited?
KATE KENDELL: Well, I'll tell you what. It has been a historic week and certainly breathtaking and a wonderful time to be alive. I think what we're seeing undoubtedly is a trend line embracing the common humanity of same-sex couples and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and, you know, I've been on the verge of tears all day. It's really an amazing time to be witnessing this.
MARTIN: What would you say to people here in this state who continue to support Prop 8 and feel like their vote might be taken away?
KENDELL: Gosh, you know, I grew up in Utah. I have a lot of people in my life who have had ambivalence around the idea of same-sex couples marrying, and what I would want to say is you don't need to worry. Our families, our relationships, the reason we want to marry is for the same reasons you want to marry. They're the same reasons anyone wants to marry. People oppose marriage either for religious reasons -- and my response to that is we're not a theocracy, we're bound by a constitution that treats this diverse population equally under the law, or should -- or because they are afraid of gay people or they don't know gay people. And I think what we're seeing, particularly with the polls today, that show in California over 60 percent of voters support the right of people to marry -- of same-sex couples to marry -- is that people come to a greater understanding. They know, they think, they read. There's nothing to be concerned about or to worry about. We want to be a part of the same human story that everyone else enjoys and the rights that everyone else takes for granted. We want those to be extended to our families and our relationships as well.
MARTIN: Kate Kendell, thank you.
KENDELL: It's a pleasure. Thank you so much.
MARTIN: For the other side, we turn now to Bill May. He heads Catholics for the Common Good, a Bay Area group that helped pass the measure and is fighting to keep it alive. Mr. Bay, what's your reaction to the news today that the Obama administration is not on your side?
BILL MAY: I'm not surprised. They have been opposing marriage between a man and a woman for some time, and their position is very clear on this issue.
MARTIN: Do you think it's appropriate for the president to even be involved with this?
MAY: Certainly he has a right to be involved. We just disagree. We found it preposterous that his position as expressed by the Justice Department is that there's no government interest in an institution that promotes kids being raised by their moms and dads.
MARTIN: Just a moment ago, Kate Kendell referred to the Field Poll that came out this week that says the majority of Californians now do support same-sex marriage. What's your reaction to that?
MAY: Well, three things. One, the Field Poll has a reputation for not being very accurate. They were way, way off when Prop 8 was being contested back in 2008. Number two, with the campaign of intimidation that has been waged against people supporting marriage, who's going to give an honest answer about this, with a stranger calling them over the phone? And third, the question is framed the wrong way. It's about participation of same-sex couples in marriage, rather than the fact that what's really at issue is redefining marriage in a way that eliminates the only institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.
MARTIN: Bill May, thank you.
MAY: Thanks so much.
MARTIN: That's Bill May, from Catholics for the Common Good. And earlier, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.