Marriage trial begins in California

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California’s constitutional amendment banning gay couples from marrying went on trial in a San Francisco federal courtroom Jan. 11.

The trial is expected to last three weeks, but the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is expected to eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final — and possibly landmark — ruling.

At issue is whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from outlawing same-sex marriage, which California voters did with the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown are the defendants in the case because of their offices, but both have said the marriage ban is indefensible. Thus, the Prop. 8 sponsors are defending the ban.

Prior to trial, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had authorized court employees to record the trial for delayed broadcast on YouTube.

Walker said the case’s national importance was one of the reasons he wanted proceedings recorded. “I always thought that if people could see how the judiciary really works, they would take a somewhat different view of it,” he said.

Defense lawyers opposed taping the trial, arguing that their witnesses might be intimidated or harassed. They went to the nation’s High Court to stop the broadcast, although Walker had said he would consider requests to black out the video if individual witnesses object to being recorded.

As of WiG’s press time, the Supreme Court had not decided whether to allow a broadcast of proceedings from the San Francisco courtroom.

While the trial is under way on one coast and justices on another coast are considering the video issue, LGBT activists are calling on the Obama administration to file a brief asking the court to overturn Prop. 8.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown are speaking out and standing with us by telling the Court that Prop. 8 cannot be defended under the U.S. Constitution,” said Geoff Kors of Equality California. “No voice would have more of an impact on the case than President Obama’s. It is time for him to stand up and act.”

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