Editorial: Battle for marriage rights began at local level

Perhaps it was inevitable that the U.S. Supreme Court would confront the issue of same-sex marriage. But in the history of great civil rights advances in this country, key players rarely wait for Fate to make her move. Instead, they forge ahead and provoke a decision to be felt for decades.

Burbank residents Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo assumed that role when they joined a lesbian couple in filing a legal challenge to California's Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals narrowly struck down Proposition 8 by upholding a lower court decision, setting the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement on Friday that it would, for the first time, weigh in on the issue.

The stakes are now higher than ever, no matter how the justices decide to come down. There are several avenues the high court could take, ranging from limiting its decision to Proposition 8 and leaving the issue of same-sex marriage up to individual states, to a broad ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which could swing the door open to gay marriages nationwide.

Whatever route the justices take, Katami and Zarrillo have accomplished what few ever do — helping to provoke this great nation into a dialogue and, ultimately, a decision on civil rights for its citizens. Only time will tell if the Supreme Court's ruling will be a watershed advancement of those rights.

Katami and Zarrillo, however, have already carved a place for themselves in history.

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