June 28 marks the historic decision’s one-year anniversary
Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo call themselves "regular guys who happen to love each other.”
That they love each other is clear, but their legal fight to ensure their union is recognized suggests they’re more than just devoted partners. Some may even call them crusaders.
Katami and Zarrillo, fed up with the fact that their committed, loving relationship was viewed as second class by the state of California and the U.S. Government, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The suit was eventually heard by the Supreme Court.
The SCOTUS ruling ultimately overturned Proposition 8, reinstatuing marriage equality in California. This led to a flurry of rulings in numerous other states in which federal judges ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. Even conservative strongholds like Utah and Oklahoma saw such rulings. It's now an accepted fact that marriage equality will eventually be recognized in all fifty states.
On June 28, Katami and Zarrillo will celebrate their wedding at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Ted Olson and David Boies, the attorneys who argued the couple's case before the Supreme Court, will officiate. The date was chosen because it marks the one year anniversary of the SCOTUS ruling on Prop 8.
Katami and Zarrillo chatted with SFGN about their post ruling thoughts.
When your lawsuit was announced, many in the community who later supported you tried to talk you out of it. Why do you think people were initially opposed to your willingness to fight for marriage equality?
Katami: It’s understood there was going to be skepticism. Ours was the first such federal suit. It was a bold move. It was going to see if we could move the movement forward. It was moving too slowly and was looking like a decades long struggle.
We took a lot of heat and were called troublemakers. But we didn't want to wait until we were 80 or 90.
Zarrillo: I'm really excited. It's important to get married and to make a point.
Did you expect gay marriage bans across the country to fall as a result of your lawsuit?
Katami: What's happening across the U.S. is a tipping point. These rulings say that discrimination against Americans is unconstitutional. If you strip away the marriage question and ask about equality, then people say yes. You can have your own beliefs in your home or community, but we have to affirm equality.
Did you see the recent wedding between gay couple Sonny and Will on “Days of Our Lives?”
Zarrillo: We met Guy Wilson (Will) at the GLAAD Media Awards. We talked about how impactful that [particular] storyline was.
Many have compared your case to Loving V. Virginia, the 1967 SCOTUS ruling which lifted state bans on interracial marriage.
Katami: Loving V. Virginia was part of our inspiration, part of our strategy. It was referenced many times throughout court proceedings. There were many parallels AND many analogies in both rulings.
Zarrillo: And now people are telling their own stories, which are based in marriage but rooted in equality.
Certain self-described "queer radicals" have spoken out against marriage equality, because they think it's "bourgeois" and they don't want to emulate straight people. What's your response to them?
Katami: When you see the people whose lives have been destroyed, it's not assimilation, it's protection when you can marry.
Zarrillo: We have to keep moving forward. If they don't want to take advantage of these rights, that's up to them.
So what's next for you guys after your honeymoon?
Katami: You cannot read the news without hearing about countries which criminalized homosexuality. We have to make sure that everyone around the world is protected and make sure their voices are heard.