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Both sides optimistic, uncertain as gay marriage arguments end

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Attorneys who are challenging and defending California's ban on gay marriage before the Supreme Court struck an optimistic tone as they emerged from arguments on Tuesday, even if they conceded they have no idea how the justices will rule about three months from now.

Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who were on opposing sides in the landmark Bush v. Gore case, faced the cameras to provide their personal take on oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

The odd pairing of lawyers is challenging the Proposition 8 ballot initiative that stripped same-sex California couples of the right to marry. Many states prohibit same-sex marriage, although recent polls show growing support for it and politicians are increasingly embracing the concept.

"We are confident where the American people are going with this," Mr. Olson told reporters in a news conference outside the court shortly after the more than an hour or arguments ended. "We don't know for sure what the United States Supreme Court is going to do, but we're very, very gratified that they listened, they heard, they asked hard questions. And there's no denying where the right is, and we hope that the Supreme Court will come out in that way when they make this decision in June."

Their legal adversary, attorney Charles Cooper, said the court could head down multiple paths in deciding this case, but should be wary of circumventing the will of voters who approved Proposition 8 in November 2008.

"If it's determined that initiatives passed by voters can be vetoed by government officials the initiative was designed to circumvent, then that would be perhaps a fatal blow to the initiative process," Mr. Cooper said.

Their comments came amid a throng of demonstrators on both sides of the issue. While some prayed or held signs, others engaged in spirited — if not heated — debate over the merits of their arguments.

Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, a same-sex couple who sued a California county clerk after they were denied a marriage license in 2009, joined similarly situated co-plaintiffs Jeffrey Zarillo and Paul Katami at the post-argument podium.

"We look forward to a day when Proposition 8 is finally and officially eliminated, and equality is restored in the state of California," Ms. Perry said.

Mr. Olson acknowledged that he and his co-counsel, Mr. Boies, come from separate sides of the political aisle, but they were quick to set that aside on this case.

"But our coming together is intended to make the point to America that this is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, or conservative or liberal," he said. "This is an issue of American constitutional rights … We treat our citizens with equality, with dignity, with fairness."

The wide-ranging questioning by the justices left many in doubt if the court would use the case as a springboard for a sweeping decision on same-sex marriage or seek a more narrow legal decision.

Mr. Boies said outside observers "should not read too much into the questions" the justices asked during the oral arguments, calling that a "really risky proposition" when trying to predict how the Supreme Court will rule.

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