The Faces of Federal Prop. 8

With the federal challenge to Prop. 8 moving full speed ahead, Advocate.com sits down with the two couples named as plaintiffs in the suit.

BY Andrew Gumbel

July 02 2009 12:00 AM ET

PAUL KATAMI JEFF ZARRILLO X390 (FOUNDATIONFOREQUALRIGHTS.ORG) | ADVOCATE.COM

How big a factor was it that you would be represented by Ted Olson and David Boies?Perry: To know that the issue was being handled by some of the most preeminent attorneys in constitutional law and equal protection -- that was such a vote of confidence. It felt like our suit really has a chance because of their involvement and their leadership. It really helped.

Were you concerned that pursing a suit in federal court was not a strategy initially endorsed by many of the LGBT rights groups who have worked to bring about same-sex marriage over the past several years?Perry: We have great respect and admiration for all the groups who are leading the way on gay marriage rights. I believe that without their leadership we would not be in this situation at all. It is a remarkable achievement on their part and they deserve tremendous credit. That said, the more we can be unified, going forward, the more successful we will ultimately be. I'm so pleased at how far things have come in just one month [since the suit was announced]. The groups have had to look at someone else's strategy and join in. That's hard to do, and it shows generosity and wisdom on their part. Stier: We all want the same thing, so we can respect our different perspectives in how to get there. We felt very confident our approach is very solid.

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo

Jeff and Paul, how come you didn't get married before now?Katami: We've been together eight years and we've had the discussion on several occasions. What we always came back to was the feeling that we should wait until the fundamental rights and protections were there federally. Zarrillo: We both have jobs where we could at any point be asked to relocate. If we had taken the time to get married in California, we might have moved to a state where the marriage was not recognized. We didn't necessarily want to put ourselves through that. Katami: We had a little bet going on Prop. 8. We said, if it failed, we would plan a date. We did that mostly to keep friends and family at bay. We got the question so often in that period of time -- a lot of people were having quick marriages. But we didn't feel that was right for us. If there was any potential for our marriage to be invalidated, to have that taken away after all the emotional and financial investment -- we couldn't even imagine that.

How did Prop. 8 get you more involved in the issue?Katami: I had seen an ad that really angered me -- the one called "Gathering Storm." I took personal offence, that it was misrepresenting the truth, that it was cast with actors. It really struck a chord with me that there are a lot of good people in the middle still undecided on this topic could easily be swayed by a 30- or 60-second ad. I was angry, but I thought I didn't want to be angered, I wanted to be proactive. So we made a short public service announcement to voice our opinions. We had over 100,000 hits on YouTube in the first 24 hours and got calls from media outlets. Overnight, we went from being on the couch saying, Let's do something, to being in front of a lot of people. Zarrillo: One of our goals is to make sure people become informed. We wanted to make sure people saw non-actors talking about real issues. Once people become educated that it's not about religious views, it's not about being Democrat or Republican, but it's truly about understanding rights that are being taken away; once you inform them about the rights and benefits we are not privy to, like health care and Social Security, people say, "Wow, I didn't know that." Katami: When the anti-gay marriage ads first aired, I wrote a very long e-mail to my friends, just detailing my emotions point for point at the misrepresentations in these ads. The e-mail ended up being read at a PTA meeting somewhere in Northern California. I got responses saying, your e-mail made me think about this and change my vote. Another thing that happened before the election was a situation where someone yelled out at me: "Marriage is not for your people anyways." It was a random person with a "Yes on 8" sticker on her minivan. We were stuck in traffic on [Highway] 101 with our windows down. She looked over with an air of belligerence, to say "what?" to me and our car. She just screamed at me. She didn't know I was gay, she just made the assumption.

Tags: Politics

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