Who’s who in the Prop 8 gay marriage case

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the first gay marriage case to ever reach the court, Hollingsworth v. Perry.

The legal battle over California's gay marriage ban began more than four years ago, when a majority of voters backed ballot Proposition 8, which rescinded the right to marry from same-sex couples.

Since then, Prop 8 has been struck down by both a district and federal appeals court as discriminatory, and along the way lost its main legal defender: the government of California. After the district court decision, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to appeal the case further, leaving a coalition of Prop 8 supporters led by a a former state senator to take up the cause.

The Supreme Court could use the case to issue a broad ruling guaranteeing the right to marriage to same-sex couples--or to shut down gay rights advocates' claims of wrongful exclusion from the institution of marriage altogether. The court also may issue a ruling in between these extremes.

As both sides prepare to argue their cause, we take a look at some of the major faces behind the high-profile case.

The plaintiffs:

Two unmarried same-sex couples in California were handpicked by the well-financed campaign against Prop 8 to challenge the gay marriage ban as discriminatory.

Kris Perry, whose last name is featured in the Hollingsworth v Perry case name, and Sandy Stier married in 2004 in San Francisco, but the state Supreme Court invalidated that marriage only six months later.

They have been together for 13 years, and raised four sons together from previous relationships. Perry, 48, told the Associated Press that “we've lived our lives in this hurry-up-and-wait, pins-and-needles way,” since the case began four years ago.

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, Calif., also were chosen as plaintiffs after gay rights advocates noticed a YouTube video Katami helped make to respond to gay marriage critics called, “Weathering the Storm.” A lawyer involved in the case told The Washington Post that they approached “several couples” about whether they would be interested in in being plaintiffs in the high profile challenge to Prop 8, warning them that their lives could face extra scrutiny if they accepted.

"We honestly think of ourselves as kind of regular, everyday guys," Katami told USA Today. "We're not asking for a special right."

Katami and Zarrillo have been together for 12 years, and hope to get married and have children if their case is successful.

Their attorneys:

The two same-sex couples are represented by Theodore Olson, the former Solicitor General under George W. Bush, and David Boies, a high profile Democratic lawyer. The pair faced off against each other in front of the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, but are now teaming up to try to convince the justices that Prop 8 and gay marriage bans in general are discriminatory. The attorneys have made the broader argument that the government has no reason to exclude people from marriage based on sexual orientation. Olson has 20 minutes to argue their case on Tuesday.

The Prop 8 defenders:

Dennis Hollingsworth, a former Republican state senator from the Temecula area, and other supporters of Proposition 8 took responsibility for defending the ban on gay marriage after the California attorney general declined to appeal the district court’s decision striking it down.

Hollingsworth is a leader of Protect Marriage, a group of supporters of Prop 8 who raise money for its legal defense now that the state has bowed out. The group says it is defending the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 8 from having their voices overruled by the courts.

Their attorney:

Charles Cooper, a former Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan, has been the lead attorney for Proposition 8 since it was first challenged by gay marriage supporters. Hollingsworth reportedly chose Cooper because he thought his skills as an attorney were on par with Olson’s. Cooper has stressed in his briefs that the Supreme Court should not interfere with states’ wishes on gay marriage and argues that the government has legitimate reasons to discourage same-sex couples from marrying. Cooper will have 30 minutes to make his arguments and answer the justices' questions on Tuesday.