Gay Marriage on Trial in San Francisco

Hearing was broadcast live and watched by college students across the country.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Monday, Dec 6, 2010  |  Updated 2:03 PM PDT
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Gay Marriage on Trial in San Francisco

NBC Bay Area

An important hearing was held Dec. 6 in the lawsuit against Proposition 8.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heardarguments in the Proposition 8 trial bringing the issue to a new legal level.

The court agreed to allow cameras in the proceedings, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which allowed the public to get a live glimpse at the players for the first time since this highly charged issue made its way to the courtroom.  The Associated Press reported that law schools across the country held public viewings of the hearing.

During the hearing Monday, the judges peppered the lawyers representing all sides of the case with questions.  They didn't seem to have a very long leash when it came to answers and continued to redirect the answers to be more susinct and directed only to the question asked.

  • First, came the issue of whether sponsors of the lawsuit even have any legal standing in the case.  Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have refused to challenge the ruling that overturned the ban.  The lawyer who represents the sponsors of Prop 8 defended the standing, but his argument was met by skepticism by Judge N. Randy Smith. "There is no question the attorney general has a duty to defend all the causes the state or any state official is a party in," Smith said. "Did you ever seek an injunction or an order or anything suggesting the attorney general should appeal and appeal?"
  • The three judges also grilled seemed to be taking issue with the legal standing of the lawyer representing Imperial County.  Judge Michael Hawkins kept asking attorney Robert Tyler why his primary client was a deputy county clerk, not the elected clerk herself. He said that fact concerned some of us on the panel.
  • The judges also questioned whether the lower court ruling would apply statewide or only to the two counties where the pair of same-sex couples who sued sought their marriage licenses.

  • Three randomly chosen federal appeals court judges were asked their opinion on U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that struck down the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 was enacted as an amendment to the California Constitution and states that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid  or recognized in California."

    Two same-sex couples sued to challenge the proposition. In August, Walker agreed with them and said it violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal treatment. Lisa Leff with the Associated Press put Vaughn's decision this way: If the courtroom had been a boxing ring, the referee would have called a knockout.

    The three judges will not rule Monday.  They will issue their decision in writing at a later undetermined time.  

    And whatever they rule, the issue will likely be appealed once again to an 11-judge panel of same court. After that court rules, the case could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

     

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