President Obama called the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case from Air Force One, telling them: “We’re proud of you guys.”
“You guys should be very proud of today,” the president told the four California plaintiffs in the case in a brief call to a mobile phone that was put on speaker phone live on MSNBC. “You’re helping a whole lot of people, everywhere.”
Just before the call ended, plaintiff Paul Katami told Obama: “You’re invited to the wedding.”
The plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case were two same-sex couples who in 2009 asked the federal courts to strike down a voter-approved measure banning gay marriage as unconstitutional state interference in a citizen’s fundamental right to wedlock.
The suit was filed on behalf of a lesbian couple from Berkeley, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who have four sons, and gay partners Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank. They were denied the right to marry following Proposition 8’s passage in 2008.
During the original trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in 2010, Zarrillo, an entertainment manager, testified tearfully about being denied the right to marry Katami, his partner of more than a decade.
“He is the love of my life,” Zarrillo said.
Checking into hotels with Katami is often “awkward,” he said, as clerks sometimes ask whether they meant to reserve a king-size bed. To eliminate confusion and embarrassment, he said, he would like to say, “My husband and I are here to check in for our room.”
Perry and Stier were denied a marriage license in May 2009. The couple married in San Francisco in 2004, but their union and others were later invalidated by the California Supreme Court because the state’s marriage ban was still in place.
When her marriage was invalidated, Perry, said she felt that “I am not good enough to be married.” She said she and Stier decided not to marry during the brief time same-sex marriage was legal in California in 2008 because they feared it would again be struck down.
Advertising for Proposition 8 implied that voters needed to protect children from people like her, Perry said. “I felt like I was being used,” she testified. “The fact that I am the way I am and I can’t change the way I am was being mocked and disparaged.”
The Obama administration eventually came out against Proposition 8 this year. In March, it asked that the Supreme Court strike down California’s voter-passed law barring same-sex marriage, arguing the Constitution protects an equal right to marry for gays and lesbians.
The decision to file a brief marked Obama’s self-described evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage. When he ran for president in 2008, he did not support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, although he opposed Proposition 8, which voters approved that year in California.
As he ran for reelection in 2012, Obama said he supported gay marriage but believed the issue was a matter for the states to decide.