SAN FRANCISCO -- "Today marks a monumental turning point in the case for equality!"
So says Chad Griffin, co-founder of the American Foundation for Equality (AFER), which led the legal fight to repeal California's discriminatory Proposition 8 that took away marriage equality.
Today also marks Griffin's last day at AFER, as he will transition to his new job as president of the Human Rights Campaign.
"This is the final chapter of this case," Griffin said during a nationwide conference call about 30 minutes after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to approve a motion from Prop 8 supports for an en banc hearing in the Perry v. Brown case.
AFER's prominent attorneys Ted Olson, a Republican, and David Boies, a Democrat, also spoke to the media during the conference call. Both attorneys predicted the end is near for Prop 8.
"This is a great step forward," Boies said, "when everyone will be able to marry the person they love."
The full Ninth Circuit court threw its weight behind the three-judge panel that voted 21 on Feb. 7, 2012, to uphold the lower ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, Boies said, emphasizing the importance of that as the case winds its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
AFER's attorneys said they believe that the Prop 8 case will be reviewed by the nation's high court in October, when the new session begins, meaning that it would likely be spring 2013 before the case is actually heard by the nine justices. If that is the case, it would mean that Prop 8 would have been tied up in court since spring 2009. As the adage goes, the wheels of justice move slowly.
Olson said AFER attorneys would naturally oppose any motion to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, hoping to bring a quicker end to the case. However, he said the high court would likely take up the case.
Boies said the AFER attorneys would argue for a broader interpretation of the case, arguing that the high court should grant marriage equality on a national basis, but the Ninth Circuit decision was limited to California and perhaps other West Coast states that make up the Ninth Circuit.
The attorneys noted how drastically public opinion and events have transformed the marriage equality issue over the past three years: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is gone, President Barack Obama has evolved on the issue, and numerous polls show a huge upswing in support for marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Olson said judges -- Republican and Democrat nominees -- are recognizing that fairness and equality are important American principles. "The last vestiges of state-sponsored discrimination are being removed from our laws," he said. "We are not at the end of the line yet, but we are so much closer" after today's decision.
Perhaps Olson best summed up everyone's feelings today when he described the words floating through his head: "Equality. Liberty. Freedom. Decency. Respect."
"The country and the law are moving closer together to soon remove the last vestiges of legal discrimination," Boies said.
Griffin stressed that Prop 8 won't be the law for long.
"It's no longer 'if' but 'when,''' Griffin said in describing the demise of Prop 8.
"We put discrimination on trial and it has lost three times and I have no doubt that it will lose a fourth time."