California gay couples hoped Supreme Court would avoid same-sex marriage case

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Dec 7, 2012 7:42pm EST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Supreme Court's decision on Friday to review California's same-sex marriage ban disappointed some Golden State gay couples who would have been able to wed if the court refused to hear the case.

If the court had not taken the case, a federal appeals court ruling that had overturned the ban would have been the law of the state, opening the way to same-sex marriages in California and leaving the nation unchanged.

Now the Supreme Court could decide whether -- or not -- the U.S. Constitutional guarantees gays the right to marry.

The stakes are now higher, the wait is longer, and there is no certainty gay rights advocates will win.

"I'm not going to lose hope and lose faith. The winds of change are upon us," said Elizabeth Chase, 30, an ad sales person who wants to marry her girlfriend and came to city hall to hear city leaders discuss court plans.

The Beaux-Arts city hall is a popular place for San Franciscans to marry, and heterosexual couples were tying the knot as city officials spoke.

"I've been waiting for three years to enjoy the same things these folks are enjoying," Chase said as she looked longingly at a bride in a long white dress marry her groom.

"I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little disappointed," Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, who argued in court against Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in fall 2008. Stewart married a woman in summer 2008, before Prop 8 ended court-approved same-sex marriage.

"Am I nervous? Yeah. I am optimistic as well," she said.

Polls show a solid majority of Californians now approve of same-sex nuptials, but surveys also showed support before the 2008 vote that passed the gay marriage ban. In any case, there are plenty of opponents in the state.

"I'm Christian, so my belief has always been that marriage should be between a man and a woman," said Linda Garcia, 34, a resource specialist to help cancer patients, who was attending her brother's wedding.

Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the team defending Prop 8, hopes the Supreme Court will agree that this is a matter for states to decide. "So the Supreme Court's decision does not necessarily mark the end of the issue," he said.

That attitude keeps Sandy Stier, one of the plaintiffs who challenged the ban, ready to keep fighting. She and her partner, Kris Perry, told reporters on a conference call that they were not at all disappointed by the high court's move, since they wanted to change the nation.

"It is absolutely worth waiting for," said Stier.

(Reporting by Ronnie Cohen and Peter Henderson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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