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Gay-marriage proponents, foes anxiously await Supreme Court decision

November 30, 2012 |  8:30 am

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take up the issue of gay marriage in California. The moment has prompted nervous debate within the gay-rights movement about the best path to achieve gay marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take up the issue of gay marriage in California as soon as Friday morning. The moment has prompted nervous debate within the gay-rights movement about the best path to achieve gay marriage.

Weddings in California could become legal within days. Or, the future of same-sex unions could remain up in the air for months or longer.

If the justices opt not to hear the case concerning Proposition 8, then a federal appeals court ruling that found the 2008 state ballot measure banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional would stand, clearing the way for marriages to begin. If the justices take up the case, a ruling would not come until next year and gay marriage would remain on hold until then, or longer depending on how the court rules.

Map: How gay marriage has progressed in the U.S.

Were the high court to decide to rule on Hollingsworth vs. Perry, it could lead to a historic victory legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. But gay activists are well aware that the court could rule against them and throw the movement back at a time when same-sex marriage has seen a series of election victories at the state level.

Opponents of gay marriage, by contrast, are eager for the Supreme Court to weigh in and are hoping it will block the growing legalization of same-sex unions.

"This claim that somehow hidden within the U.S. Constitution is this right to redefine marriage is just false," said Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage.

TIMELINE: Gay marriage since 2000

It's been four years since California voters approved a ban on gay marriage. During that time, several more states have legalized gay marriage; it is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Many gay-rights activists in California feel left behind and eager for the state to resume marriages. The question is: How best to make it happen?

Jeffrey J. Zarrillo, who with his partner is a plaintiff in the federal suit now before the high court, wants the justices to hear the case, which he is confident of winning. "This case is important in all 50 states, not just California," said Zarrillo, 39, a Burbank resident.

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-- Maura Dolan and Jessica Garrison 

Photo: Proponents of gay marriage rally outside San Francisco City Hall in 2010. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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