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Couple at center of Prop. 8 Supreme Court case anxious, optimistic

December 8, 2012 | 10:02 am

Paul Katami, right, and Jeff Zarillo, left, speak after a federal appeals court struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage last year.

Burbank residents Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo were catapulted onto the national stage Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban that the couple sued to overturn.

For most of the day Katami and Zarrillo, together nearly 12 years, were on a circuit of media interviews and conference calls as the nation learned that the Supreme Court had decided, for the first time, to weigh in on same-sex marriage.

“We’re excited, we’re anxious, we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Zarrillo when reached by phone. “This is what we’ve waited for.”

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Proposition 8 based on the lawsuit filed by Katami and Zarrillo and a lesbian couple, setting the stage for Supreme Court review.

At the time, Katami said the legal trajectory of the case had been an emotional ride, but that at every legal victory along the way, it wasn’t about, “Hooray, we won,” it was instead more of sense that “this is the right path.”

Now the stakes are higher than ever. But the couple said they were confident that the high court would come down on the side of equal rights for all, noting they had history on their side.

“We hope that history has taught us one thing, that the courts are there to protect us,” Katami said.

For gay marriage backers, the excitement of Proposition 8 going to the Supreme Court was tempered by nervousness about how the conservative majority would come down on the issue. Had the court not taken the case, an earlier appeals court ruling invalidating Proposition 8 would have stood and marriages could have begun.

“I think any time our gay issues go to the U.S. Supreme Court we are all filled with anxiety because you never know,” said West Hollywood Councilman John Duran, who is gay. “Whatever decision they make, if it’s adverse, we have to live with it for a generation.”

In a sign of hedging bets, some activists said they were now mulling a 2014 ballot measure to repeal Proposition 8 if the Supreme Court upholds it.

Gay marriage foes were decidedly more ebullient, saying they liked their chances in front of the high court.

“Arguing this case before the Supreme Court finally gives us a chance at a fair hearing, something that hasn’t been afforded to the people since we began this fight,” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for Protect Marriage.com.

Jim Campbell, the lead counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and another of the lawyers in the case, added in a statement that “marriage between a man and a woman is a universal good that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western Civilization.”

--Jason Wells, Jessica Garrison and Ashley Powers

Photo: Paul Katami, right, and Jeff Zarrillo speak after a federal appeals court struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage last year. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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