Politics

In Depth: SF City Attorney More Than Eager For Same-Sex Marriage Decision

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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera answers questions from the media in front of the California Supreme court building March 4, 2008 in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera in front of the California Supreme court building March 4, 2008 in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Perhaps no one is anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8 more than San Francisco City & County City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

“After nine years of a lot of ups and downs, I’m looking forward to it I think more than anybody,” Herrera said.

Elected in 2001, Herrera has initiated and participated in some of the most high-profile cases of the day including marriage equality in California, but his office has also taken aim at the marketing of high-energy drinks to kids, has been pursuing the employee spending requirement in San Francisco’s universal health care program, tenants’ rights, patient dumping, and gang injunctions are also issues being pursued by his office.

Herrera acknowledges that there are a lot of possibilities in the Prop. 8 case, including a decision on the merits that could impact all 50 states, a handful of states or just California. There could be a decision to uphold Prop. 8 or there could even be a procedural decision where the justices dismiss the case as “improvidently granted” meaning they shouldn’t have brought review of the case in the first place.

In any event or potential combination of outcomes, Herrera said that he’ll be getting to the heart of the matter no matter what.

Herrera said he thinks that that the majority of justices would not vote to uphold Prop. 8 and that would be good news, adding he thinks there will be a limited merits ruling or a procedural ruling that does allow marriages in California to go forward.

Herrera said he doesn’t foresee a sweeping 50-state ruling on this issue and that he recognizes that the states want to take it slow.

With the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Herrera said it comes down to the benefits that could be accorded to couples that in fact do get married. If struck down, DOMA would basically say that in cases where marriage is allowed to occur, those parties are entitled to the over 1,000 rights and privileges that opposite-sex married couples enjoy, according to Herrera.

“This is the first time that the court will have had an opportunity to opine on the issue of marriage equality and I think that is incredibly important,” he said, adding that he sees the Supreme Court as being well-respected.

He talked about how rapidly things are changing on the issue, particularly in California referring to what became known as the “Winter of Love” in San Francisco in 2004 when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex marriage in the city limits and many thought things were going too fast.

“I think the case is pretty clear that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Certainly the justices are aware of the mood of the country. They’re aware of what is going on. I think the justices are sensitive to that (not to say it’s going to determine their decisions),” he said.

But what about the argument that Proposition 8 was passed by a majority of California voters? Herrera acknowledges that while that is true, that the “independent judiciary is empowered” to make decisions in regard so that the “tyranny of the majority does not trample on the rights of disfavored minorities.”

Should the Supreme Court uphold the constitutionality of Prop. 8, Herrera said that there would be the political avenue for marriage equality proponents to go back to the ballots.

“I have no doubt that they would because they recognize that they’re all on the right side of history.”

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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