WASHINGTON — Phoenix native David Baker stood outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, an openly gay member of the Mormon Church in support of same-sex marriage.
“I believe that civil marriage is a civil right,” said Baker, one of a handful of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate who have been gathering outside the court this week to wait for rulings on the issue.
Their numbers are likely to explode Wednesday, when rulings are expected on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and woman, and California’s Proposition 8, which overturned a law in that state that had legalized same-sex marriages.
Also pending is the fate of Arizona’s law banning benefits to domestic partners of state employees. Gay state workers had challenged the 2009 law as discriminatory, since heterosexual couples can get benefits by getting married in Arizona but homosexual couples cannot.
Lower courts agreed and blocked the law, sparking a state appeal to the Supreme Court. Brewer v. Diaz is one of several gay-rights cases the court has not heard, but has not rejected, while it considers the two gay-marriage cases.
The prospect of those rulings drew Baker and others this week. Those cases are among a handful left to be decided, with the court announcing that it would release its final opinions for the term Wednesday.
That could draw crowds rivaling last summer’s for the court’s decision on Obamacare – also on the last day of the term – when news reports estimated more than 1,000 people showed up.
Baker, who now lives in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that it is “shameful” that people are treated as “second-class citizens” because of their sexuality.
But Ronald Brock, of Truth Truck U.S.A., was expressing a different viewpoint in front of the court Tuesday.
Brock opposes same-sex marriage, which he said goes against the word of God. He held a sign Tuesday urging supporters to “repent or perish.”
While opponents’ numbers are also expected to swell Wednesday, Brock was the only one visible outside the court Tuesday.
Bob Kunst, a Florida resident who identified himself as the president of Shalom International, is a same-sex marriage supporter who said the court is playing “sexual politics” when it should be addressing other critical issues.
He said that the court must understand that gay people deserve “equal rights under the rule of law” as much as straight people.
“You’re supposed to interpret the Constitution, not your sexual hang-ups,” Kunst said.
Kunst said the justices need to take a clear position on same-sex marriages rather than defer to the states. Going through the question state by state will “just waste more time and effort,” said Kunst.
“We’re going to win anyway,” he said.
Baker, 24, who has been at the court every day this week, said it was difficult being gay and raised in the Mormon Church, but that he is now an openly gay member.
“Growing up in the church as a gay Mormon was difficult, but I found a good place where I resolved my spirituality and my sexuality,” he said.
Outside the court, he has been holding a two-sided sign. One side says, “Gay Mormon for marriage equality,” and the other has a joking warning for opponents of same-sex marriage: “If I can’t marry my boyfriend then I’ll marry your daughter!”