While Proposition 8 proponents have been strategizing about how to salvage a ban on gay marriages in California, some in Humboldt County are saying that at this point, their best strategy is prayer.
With the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acting swiftly last week to lift its stay on gay unions, and the state attorney general, governor and department of public health all on board, chances are looking bleaker for tactics that could halt the marriages.
"Proposition 8 is going to die a quiet death," said Vikram Amar, associate dean for academic affairs and professor at the U.C. Davis School of Law. Protect Marriage, the group that lobbied for Proposition 8 and hired the legal team to defend it in court, has run out of options, he said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a group of attorneys that acted as co-council in the Proposition 8 case, had asked the Supreme Court on Saturday to block the state's issuance of marriage licenses. But on Sunday, Justice Anthony Kennedy turned down that request, without comment.
Jordan Lorence, senior council at the alliance, told the Journal in a phone interview on Monday that the alliance is weighing two options: making its next stand in state court or in federal court. If it wants to try federal court, it has 25 days from when the decision was announced to petition the Supreme Court for a rehearing of the case. If it opts to fight in state court, Lorence said, it might look into representing a county clerk who ignores the governor's call to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. "The only thing [county clerks] are required to do is uphold all parts of the state constitution, which includes Proposition 8," he said.
It's possible that in some California county, a county clerk might refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, arguing that the earlier court case applied only to the two couples who sued to block Proposition 8. That would be unlikely to go far, though, Amar said.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, in her analysis of last week's Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8, wrote that it applies statewide since it involves a constitutional challenge to the law. Thus, Harris said, all county clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they want to uphold the law.
While the lawyers and the judges battle it out, Humboldt County residents who have been pushing against gay marriage have been turning inward.
"Our first pushback is prayer," said Cameron English, lead pastor of the Eureka First Assembly of God. "This country was founded on God, and we're turning our back on God," he said.
Other people, like 59-year-old India Nzila, believe that prayer is the only option left to them. She has been a Christian for about 40 years, and attends Arcata First Baptist Church. "I believe that marriage is something that comes from the Bible. It has everything to do with my faith," she said.
She made very clear that she does not dislike gay people. "My heart is not against them," she said. She is even in favor of civil unions, and certain legal rights for gay couples, "but calling it marriage is just not cool."
"It's like hijacking something that comes from the Bible," she said. "It's like hijacking my faith."
She is not married and said that because of the ruling, she doesn't ever want to get married. "It's no longer a sacred thing," she said. "It's kind of pointless."
"My heart is just broken."