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Burbank couple revel in U.S. Supreme Court decision

Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, turns back Prop 8.

June 26, 2013|By Jason Wells, jason.wells@latimes.com
  • Crowds gather in West Hollywood on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The highest court delivered a one-two punch in support of gay rights, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act while turning away the defenders of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot measure that prevented gay couples from marrying in 2009.
Crowds gather in West Hollywood on Wednesday, June 26,… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Standing on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, the scene was exactly what Paul Katami and his partner, Jeff Zarrillo, had hoped for when they started their journey more than three years ago.

The highest court in the land had just delivered a one-two punch in support of gay rights, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act while turning away the defenders of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that prevented the Burbank couple from marrying in 2009.

PHOTOS: Burbank residents Paul Katami, Jeff Zarillo celebrate Supreme Court decision

Together with a lesbian couple from Berkeley — Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier — they had formed the set of plaintiffs who would bring the issue of same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court and prevail.

"Today is a great day to be American," Zarrillo said to a throng of reporters outside the court.

Hours later, the couple would be on a flight back to Los Angeles. A celebration was being planned in West Hollywood. There were victory celebrations galore starring "Katami Zarrillo Perry Stier and Co."

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In a brief call to a phone that was put on speaker and carried live on MSNBC, President Obama told all four plaintiffs from Air Force One: "We're proud of you guys."

Just before the call ended, Katami told Obama: "You're invited to the wedding."

The scene would have seemed far out of reach just three years ago as Zarrillo gave tearful testimony during the original trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker about being denied the right to marry Katami, his partner of more than a decade.

"He is the love of my life," Zarrillo said.

On Wednesday, having come out the other side of a long and taxing legal battle, Zarrillo told reporters the phrase he'd wanted to say under the cloak of marriage since being turned down by the state in 2009.

"I look forward to growing old with the man I love."

Supporters of the gay marriage ban, however, refused to back down, taking to the airwaves to defend Proposition 8 and what they insisted was a narrow Supreme Court victory, arguing it applied only to the two sets of plaintiffs.

"This is far from over, I can tell you," Chapman University law professor John Eastman, who supports the same-sex marriage ban, told the L.A. Times.

But with the political structure of California eager to move past Proposition 8 and restart issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, momentum was clearly on the side of Zarrillo and Katami.

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