In San Francisco today Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will hear closing arguments in the trial that will decide whether or not the ban on gay marriage imposed by California voters through the ballot measure known as Proposition 8 is constitutional. Complicating the matter is the question of the some 18,000 legal gay marriages that took place before Proposition 8 passed. The case will no doubt head to the Supreme Court next. Judge Walker asked for closing arguments to be submitted in writing before today and he also asked that the arguments address specific questions.
Testimony in the case took place in January and was live blogged and reported extensively, although it was not televised as the judge had originally planned. Supporters of the marriage ban argued that side’s witnesses could face retaliation and the Supreme Court agreed.
One of those witnesses was David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, who detractors have pointed out possesses little in the way of degrees and peer-reviewed publishing to be considered credible on the stand. Indeed, Blankenhorn at the trial referred mainly to works by George Rekers, the famous antigay “expert” recently caught on a whirlwind tour of Europe with a male escort.
Some of the responses to Judge Walker’s questions were reported this morning by the San Francisco Chronicle:
Prop. 8’s sponsors argued that the state has numerous legitimate reasons to define marriage traditionally – to guard children’s welfare, maintain social stability, and honor voters’ moral and religious views.
“Moral disapproval of homosexual conduct is not tantamount to animus, bigotry or discrimination,” said Charles Cooper, lawyer for Protect Marriage, the Prop. 8 campaign organization. “On the contrary, religions that condemn homosexual conduct also teach love of gays and lesbians.”
Theodore Olson, lead attorney for the couples challenging Prop. 8, called the measure “an attempt to enforce private moral beliefs about a disfavored minority.” He said the Yes on 8 campaign, supported by the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, had told voters that same-sex relationships are immoral and had exploited fears that gays menace children.
Walker asked both sides what he should do if he found Prop. 8 unconstitutional. Its sponsors replied that the only potential legal flaws in the measure were supplied by the California Supreme Court and could be removed by interpreting the measure more broadly.
The state court ruled in May 2008 that gays and lesbians had the right to marry the partner of their choice. After Prop. 8 overturned that ruling six months later, the California court upheld the measure while also affirming the legality of 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before the election.
Gay rights advocates argued that the unequal treatment of couples who married at different times was one of many reasons to overturn the ballot measure.
The closing arguments are set to begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Firedoglake bloggers, among others, will be typing up the blow by blow.