Good morning! Today begins the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in US District Court in San Francisco, the beginning of a process that will most likely end up in the Supreme Court, and which could be the vehicle to deliver marriage equality rights to the United States. I will be reporting today from the Richard H. Chambers United States Courthouse in Pasadena, CA, one of several closed-circuit remote viewing locations for the trial.
Perry v. Schwarzenegger seeks to overturn California’s Proposition 8, the initiative banning same-sex marriage rights in the state. Ted Olson and David Boies, the lawyers on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore, have teamed up for this effort, hired by the nonprofit American Foundation for Equal Rights to prosecute the case.
During the trial, which is expected to last three weeks, Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies plan to argue that Proposition 8 violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process.
“The biggest challenge with any of the judges we’ll face is simply to get them to focus on the law and the facts and not on the inertia of history,” Mr. Boies said. “I think the only real argument that the other side has is, ‘This is the way its always been.’ ”
But supporters of Proposition 8 say that California voters were well within their rights to establish marriage as between a man and a woman, as voters in more than two dozen other states have done.
In addition to simulcasting the trial to other courthouses, the US District Court in San Francisco, led by Vaughn Walker, will broadcast the trial via You Tube in a tape-delayed fashion, something bitterly opposed by anti-equality groups. Their injunctions have all failed, and the American people will have the opportunity to see this trial.
And this trial will be unique, the first to my knowledge to put same-sex couples on the stand and hear testimony directly from them.
Scholars, gay and lesbian partners and opponents of same-sex marriage are expected to testify about the nature of marriage and homosexuality during an unprecedented federal trial today to determine whether gays and lesbians may marry.
Unlike other court cases about marriage rights, the trial before Walker will involve weeks of testimony on wide-ranging issues.
“Actually putting witnesses on the stand has never been done before in any lawsuit claiming a right to same-sex marriage,” said Proposition 8 campaign attorney Andy Pugno. “So this is a very out-of-the-ordinary approach.”
David Boies, a lawyer for the challengers of the ballot measure, said he expected the case would reach the Supreme Court in the fall of 2011.
“This is the first time that you will have this kind of record being made” on the social, religious and legal implications of same-sex marriage, said Boies, who represented former Vice President Al Gore in Bush vs. Gore, the Supreme Court case that gave George W. Bush the presidency.
Witnesses expected to testify include the two same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit, as well as experts on marriage’s history and discrimination against the LGBT community. You can see why anti-equality groups may not want this to have a hearing in public; bigotry could be in full display on the stand.
Opening arguments and perhaps the first witness examinations are expected today.