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David Boies and Chad Griffin

Final Prop 8 hearings scheduled

A federal judge will hear closing arguments June 16 in the landmark trial over California’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples in the state from marrying.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger was first taken up by Judge Vaughn Walker in a U.S. District Court courtroom in San Francisco in January. The trial then went on hiatus through the rest of winter and early spring.

“The scheduling of final arguments is an important step forward in this historic trial, but it is far from an end point in our nation’s centuries-long war against bigotry and discrimination,” said Rick Jacobs of the California-based Courage Campaign, which has closely monitored the trial and is at the forefront of the campaign to repeal Proposition 8.

Jacobs promised a “historic new initiative” this year on the freedom to marry in the state.

“Ultimately,” he said, “the promise of full equality for all Americans will remain unfulfilled until the American people are able to hear all the evidence.”

Before final arguments, the defenders of the voter-approved amendment — nicknamed Prop 8 for its place on the November 2008 ballot — are expected to file a motion to strike certain evidence introduced during the trial. The defense has indicated its intent to strike e-mail messages and campaign memoranda written by certain Prop 8 supporters, as well as the testimony of Hak-Shing William Tam.

The defense, a coalition called Protect Marriage, maintains that the entering of certain documents and Tam’s testimony as evidence during the trial violates the freedom of association guarantee in the First Amendment.

Tam, a conservative from San Francisco involved with the American Return to God Prayer Movement, was called as a hostile witness by opponents of Prop 8 to talk about his work during the Prop 8 campaign, which involved spreading a message linking homosexuality with pedophilia.

Just before the trial began, Tam asked the court to excuse him from the case.

He wrote, “I am fearful for my own safety and the safety of my family. In the past I have received threats to my life, had my property vandalized and I am recognized on the streets due to my association with Prop 8 … and now that (the case) is going to trial, I fear that I will get more publicity, be more recognizable, and the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

A deadline for motions in the case is May 7.

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