Defense Begins to Make Its Case in Prop 8 Trial

Prosecution rested on Friday, now Proposition 8 supporters make their case

Thanks to an intervention by the Supreme Court, footage from Perry vs. Schwarzenegger -- better known as the Prop 8 trial -- never did make it to YouTube.

But that doesn't mean that there weren't highlights (or lowlights, depending on your view) to the effort to determine whether Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage in California passed by voters in 2008, violated federal law.

The trial, which got underway two weeks ago in San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals amid national attention and local protests, has featured plenty of gripping testimony, running from the tearful and heartfelt to the awkward and hilarious.

The first witnesses brought to the stand were the plaintiffs -- Berkeley's Sandy Stier and Kristin Perry and Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katami from Burbank. They told stories of the discrimination they had encountered all their lives for being homosexual, and how it eventually manifested in the denial of their right to equal protection under the constitution in the form of marriage equality.

One of the more telling moments was when Prop 8 supporter William Tam took the stand. Under examination from attorney David Boies, Tam admitted that he was motivated to get the ballot measure passed because he felt that it was a step down the road to legalized paedophilia, polygamy and eventually the fall of civilization as we know it.

Tam was followed by a number of expert witnesses who presented research showing that same-sex couples were perfectly capable parents, that recognition of marriage equality in other countries has not lead to anarchy, and that even if homosexuals had an agenda beyond recognition as human beings with rights protected by the constitution like any others, they don't have the political clout as a group to enforce it over the will of the majority.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys have tried gambits including painting witnesses for the plaintiffs of "liberal bias," thinking they scored points by getting one expert to reveal that -- gasp -- he had donated money to that evil Communist propaganda operation known as the Public Broadcasting System.

On the final day of testimony last week, defense attorney Howard Nielson tried in vain to convince University of California at Davis professor Greg Herek to admit that homosexuality was a "lifestyle choice," and not an immutable fact of a person's being, which Herek steadfastly denied -- though Prop 8 supporters scored it as a victory for Nielson.

During the proceedings, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker repeatedly raised questions from the bench as to why the state is in the business of granting marriages at all. However, the defense has asserted that the state's interest lies in procreation and the care of the children hence, not on religious convictions since they would have no bearing on the case.

But as plaintiff counsel pointed out, the state allows marriages in cases where procreation isn't likely, possible or even desired, bringing up the case of childless "founding father" George Washington.

Going forward, defense counsel will likely wrap up their case quickly, feeling that the plaintiffs didn't do enough to make theirs. Walker, however, has asked for a delay before closing arguments are presented in order to consider the points raise and grill both parties with questions from the bench.

Jackson West has to say that, like Walker, he wonders why the state provides privileges and protections to married couples that it doesn't offer to individuals.

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