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Strange Bedfellows In Prop 8 Fight

In choosing sides over the legality of gay marriage, two of the nation's top lawyers are saying, "I do."

Opposing attorneys in the 2000 election fight for Florida - David Boies, who represented Al Gore, and Ted Olson, George Bush's lawyer and later the U.S. Solicitor General - are teaming up to ask a federal court to throw out California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The two filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of two gay men and two gay women, arguing that the marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Olson said he hopes the case will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a federal question," he said. "This is about the rights of individuals to be treated equally and not be stigmatized."

And they may go up against Ken Starr, the former prosecutor who almost got President Clinton removed from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Starr successfully argued before the California Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8.

Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the film "Milk" about the late gay activist Harvey Milk, said the case would seek to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage not just in California, "but sea to sea."

"Like so many civil right battles before the gay and lesbian movement, it's only clear we can win our full and complete right [in federal court]," Black said on CBS' The Early Show. "There will always be states and counties that will have to be pulled to full equality."

Black said part of the reason opponents of same-sex marriage succeeded in passing Proposition 8 last year was that activists did not look to history and reach out to those outside the gay community.

"Harvey Milk understood we need to reach out, educate," Black said. "Thankfully, we've now identified the community that voted against us, thanks to Proposition 8. We need to reach out to them, educate them and tell our personal stories."

In their decision, the Justices emphasized the legal issue before them was not same-sex marriage (which they voted last year to legalize) but rather the right of California voters to change the state's constitution.

Black disagreed with the Court's explanation that its decision was a matter of protecting voters' rights. "Well, it's clearly an issue of same-sex marriage," he said. "It's an issue of equality.

"It goes deeper than just my right to get married," Black said. "This goes to, I think, the feeling that I had when I was a teenage kid and I was hearing there was inequality in this country and I was seeing things that were not true about gay and lesbian people. You start to feel there's something wrong with you, you're told by your government you're a second-class citizen, and dire thoughts go through your head.

"Gay and lesbian kids are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight brothers and sisters, and four times more likely if they come from an unaccepting environment," Black said. "I tuned in and I was watching the pundits on either side, and I was listening to the pundits who were afraid of equality saying gay marriage hurts their family and children. It's the exact opposite; it's the homophobic thoughts that hurt the citizens."

Working To Repeal

In California, supporters of the ban hailed the court's decision as a victory for traditional marriage:

"Marriage is about procreation," said Steve Macias, student body president of Sacramento City College. "There is not procreation available in same-sex marriages."

But the justices also ruled that the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before the ban took effect last year will remain legal.

So Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper, who wed last summer, are still married … and are still determined to win the right for others.

"We'll be back at the ballot box - we're not going away," Rizzo told Blackstone.

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
(Left: Emily Drenne, a same-sex marriage advocate, wears a wedding gown as she is detained by San Francisco police, after demonstrators block a street in San Francisco, May 26, 2009.)

Cooper said it was just a matter of time before the issues goes before California voters again - possibly as soon as next year.

"I'm just disappointed the court wasn't more courageous here," she told Blackstone.

Gay rights groups are starting work to gather the 700,000 signatures required to place a repeal of Proposition 8 before voters in November 2010.

The court held that the ban, which passed with 52 percent of the vote last fall, was a legal exercise of the virtually unfettered initiative power the California Constitution grants its citizens.

Both Equality California and the Courage Campaign, a political action group based in Los Angeles, said they had polled their members in recent days and found overwhelming support for going back to voters next year instead of waiting until 2012.

But they may still find an uphill battle: A poll of 600 California voters by CBS Station KPIX said that 56 percent agree with the Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8, although 60 percent agreed with the Court's decision not to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed last year.

Voicing Opposition

Several hundred protesters marched from City Hall in San Francisco last night to a downtown park to express their opposition to the state Supreme Court's decision.

Earlier in the day, police arrested at least 175 protesters after a large crowd blocked a major intersection to protest the ruling.

In New York City, more than a thousand people marched from Sheridan Square to Union Square to rally support for same-sex marriage, reports CBS Station WCBS. New York state lawmakers are poised to make a decision on same-sex marriage legislation some time next month.

Activists, politicians and religious leaders slammed the California Supreme Court's decision.

"Those who use anti-gay rhetoric in religion are practicing religious bigotry," said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum.

In Los Angeles, about 100 people sat down in an intersection near the University of California, Los Angeles during rush hour, and several hundred protesters gathered at a rally in West Hollywood where actress Drew Barrymore addressed the crowd.

"Children need families, people need to love and we need to move forward, not backward," Barrymore said. "What defines a family? We do!"

"To have your rights denied is very painful," one man told CBS station KCBS correspondent Melissa McCarty.

"I just think it's very frustrating that they keep talking about 'the sanctity of marriage' and upholding that," one woman told KCBS. "We have shows like 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' and 'Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire,' and Britney Spears can get drunk in Vegas and go marry some guy, and we can't get married and we're in love."

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