Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Harris addressesfrustration over Prop 8 case
by Seth Hemmelgarn
As people on both sides of the marriage equality fight wait to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban, state Attorney General Kamala Harris is urging patience.
While speaking with reporters Friday, November 30 at the State Building in San Francisco, Harris acknowledged the frustration many are feeling as the court's announcement is continually delayed.
"Look at history and what it has taught us about being vigilant, but also being patient," Harris said.
"Let's just roll up our sleeves," she said. "Let's not throw up our hands."
The court is expected to announce Friday, December 7 whether it will review the Hollingsworth v. Perry case, in which U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. A panel of judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed that decision to stand.
If the Supreme Court decides not to take up the case, same-sex marriages would be allowed again in California. If they review the lawsuit, the justices are expected to announce a decision by June.
Many had hoped that the Supreme Court would announce whether it would hear the case last Friday or Monday, December 3, but that didn't happen.
Harris said there's advice that both her office and Governor Jerry Brown would provide to counties if the justices don't take up the case – thereby allowing same-sex marriage to resume – but she didn't offer many specifics.
"We've been telling them to hold up," she said.
Harris added that counties would need to have the resources to help the couples who could be coming in to get married.
"The fundamental issue is, are we a society that is going to allow a category of people to be denied the same right everyone else has?" she said.
Harris, a longtime supporter of President Barack Obama, praised his announcement in May that he fully supports marriage equality. She said Obama's support for same-sex unions is "a signal for the court to get with the times."
She said the president showed "courage" in his support and "did not pay a political price for that," contrary to the notion that voters would be turned off by his support of same-sex marriages.
City council in Arkansas endorses marriage resolution
The city council of Eureka Springs, Arkansas voted 4-1 recently to endorse a resolution in support of same-sex marriage. The move makes the city, which has a population of 2,300, the first in the state to officially endorse marriage equality, according to advocates and a city staffer.
Arkansas' constitution specifically prohibits same-sex unions, but Michael Walsh, one of the resolution's backers, is hopeful it will have an impact.
"My hope is that the resolution will inspire other Southern cities and towns to take the same initiative, adding to the momentum of support for same-sex marriage now sweeping the country," Walsh, 63, a gay Eureka Springs resident said in an email. "It also sends a strong message to the Arkansas Legislature that grassroots support for LGBT equality is very much alive in the state and the time has come to repeal discriminatory laws that have been on the books for far too long."
Lamont Richie, a former city official who's now a judge, authored the resolution.
Walsh, a retired journalist who authored the city's 2007 domestic partnership registry, said in a news release that he told councilmembers, "True equal marriage rights are a long way off in Arkansas and the South. We know that. But the resolution before you is powerfully symbolic and potentially influential."
He said he provided the council with the names of more than 700 supporters, including former Eureka Springs mayor Dani Joy. The council voted on the resolution without discussion. One voted "present."
Walsh's news release says travel publications often refer to his town as "the San Francisco of Arkansas," as much for the rainbow flags in storefronts and its "disproportionately" large gay and lesbian population as for its steep streets, trolleys, and Victorian homes. The town has three "Diversity Weekends" each year and more than 50 gay-owned businesses, according to Walsh. The town's personnel policy handbook includes sexual orientation in its equal employment opportunity policy and in its unlawful harassment policy.
The resolution, which says, "We support marriage equality in the state of Arkansas and throughout the United States," cites Supreme Court decisions that hold marriage is a key right.
The measure also points to court rulings against Prop 8 as well as rulings in several federal lawsuits that have found the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage, unconstitutional.
In a phone interview, Ann Armstrong, Eureka Springs city clerk and treasurer, said, "We've got a long way to go" before same-sex couples will actually be able to marry. "Here we are in the Bible belt," she said.
However, noting the 700 signatures in support of the resolution, Armstrong added, "I would say there's probably quite a big of support."
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.