Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, two of the plaintiffs challenging Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, are looking forward to finally finishing their decade-long quest to be married when the Supreme Court weighs in on the case this month. But the couple doesn't anticipate the fight for equality to end anytime soon.
"What I know we're going to have to work on, even if we're successful in our pursuit of marriage equality, is continuing to help the country understand how much Sandy and I are like other couples, and how much our family is like other families," said Perry on Wednesday in the third of an msnbc series of Google+ Hangouts On Air.
"Even though we know that this court ruling can do a lot to clear a path to make it possible for people to see us as equal, it will still take many, many, many years to unwind some of the negative messages and beliefs that people still hold about gay people."
Perry and Stier, along with Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, are the plaintiffs in a high profile Supreme Court case challenging Proposition 8. The proposal changed the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a women and received 52% of the vote in 2008. Federal courts invalidated the initiative last year, but the ruling was appealed by the amendment's proponents. California is one of seven states to have statutory language in its constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage.
That could all change in a matter of days when the Supreme Court rules on two cases dealing with marriage equality in the country—a 1996 law the prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and another with Prop 8.
If the high court rules the way Perry and Stier are hoping, all same-sex couples in America will have the constitutional right to marry.
"In our perfect world, what would be amazing is to have a ruling that in fact does impact the entire country," said Stier on Wednesday. "Because it's not just about our rights; it's about the rights of everybody."
Experts predict that such a scenario is unlikely, however. Even David Boies, one of the lawyers challenging Prop 8, said Tuesday that the proponents of the ban likely lack standing to appeal the lower court's ruling—which would be grounds for dismissing the case, and letting the lower court ruling stand. While this outcome would allow Perry and Stier to marry, couples in other states would be unaffected.
Still, finally getting the chance to marry would be reason enough to celebrate for Perry and Stier, who have been fighting for that right for last ten years. "We had no idea that this would turn out to be such a historic adventure," said Perry. "We wanted to be married just like everybody else."
Perry and Stier have been together since 1997, and are the parents of four boys. Perry asked Stier to marry her in 2003, even though the couple knew it would have to be symbolic. But a year later, they were able to marry legally after the City of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Six months after that, California's Supreme Court invalidated same-sex unions.
"It was a thrill to have the opportunity to be married," said Perry, "even though it was very brief."
In 2008, the same state court that struck down their marriage overturned California's ban on same-sex unions, only to have voters approve Prop 8 that November. That's when the couple filed suit.
"When Kris and I made the decision to marry back in 2004, it was decision based purely on love and commitment," said Stier. "The decision to be involved in the case was a very deliberate one, where we felt like the ballot box was the wrong place for the issue of equality to be decided."
The expected Supreme Court decisions come at an already historic time for the gay rights movement. Twelve states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry. And three sitting GOP senators have publicly declared their support for marriage equality—a trend Republican strategist Steve Schmidt expects to continue.
"I think that you will see over time more and more Republicans drop their opposition to gay marriage," said Schmidt. "We don't want to see any American disenfranchised from an institution that brings so much profound happiness to so many people...It's a good day for this movement."