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Elsewhere: Prop. 8 lawyer vetted first gay marriage initiative with Mormon leaders Cal Watch, Gay Marriage Trial Moves To A Close CBS5, Same-Sex Marriage Case, Day 12: The End (for Now) Some Liberal Blogger, Trekkies, gay marriage, and me… Beth Spotswood, Defense lawyers rest case at Prop 8 trial ABC7

See transcripts from every day of the trial here



5:18 PM:Testimony ended in federal court in San Francisco today in a groundbreaking two-and-a-half week trial on whether California’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.

The case before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has been the first federal trial in the nation on a U.S. constitutional challenge to a prohibition on gay marriage.

The outcome is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court
.
Walker, who will rule without a jury, said he will set a date for closing arguments after reviewing the evidence.

He told attorneys, “I’d like to take some time to go over all this material. I will probably key up some questions that have come to the fore.”

The judge is expected to issue a written ruling sometime after hearing the arguments.

That hearing may not occur until March at the earliest, because Walker gave attorneys until Feb. 26 to submit papers tying the trial evidence to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions.

The trial was on a lawsuit in which a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank claim that California’s ban, enacted by voters as Proposition 8 in 2008, violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

Proposition 8, approved by a 52 percent majority of voters, provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The proposition has been defended in court by its official sponsors, who say the measure is a reasonable way of preserving the traditional definition of marriage and promoting the welfare of children.

At a news conference after the trial testimony ended at noon today, plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies said he thought the couples had proved their claim that Proposition 8 can’t be justified.

“We have exposed publicly that there simply is no basis for prohibiting gay and lesbian people from getting married. It doesn’t harm anyone,” Boies asserted.

Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for Proposition 8 sponsors, claimed in response that the defenders had shown voters had a rational basis for approving the measure.

“The rational reason,” Pugno said, “is that the best thing for children is to have both a mother and a father.”

One issue that Walker must decide is the standard to be applied in judging the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

The initiative sponsors say the standard is whether there is a rational, nondiscriminatory basis for the voters’ action.

The plaintiffs, while arguing that a rational basis hasn’t been proven, contend that courts should apply a higher standard, which is to require a compelling reason for the measure.

They maintain that gay rights are entitled to the higher standard of legal protection, in the same way that racial minority rights have been safeguarded by courts, because homosexuals lack political power and have been discriminated against on the basis of a characteristic they can’t change.

The 17 witnesses called to the stand by the plaintiffs in the first two weeks of trial included a dozen university professors and other experts whose testimony was intended to prove those points.

The Proposition 8 sponsors presented only two defense witnesses this week, after withdrawing four other expert witnesses at the start of the trial on Jan. 11.

The first witness, government professor Kenneth Miller of Claremont McKenna College, testified that gays and lesbians in California are politically powerful, contradicting an opposite view given for the plaintiffs by Stanford University professor Gary Segura.

The second, who completed testifying today, was David Blankenhorn, an author and lecturer on marriage and family structure who is director of the New York-based Institute for American Values.

During cross-examination by Boies this morning, Blankenhorn agreed that allowing same-sex marriage would benefit lesbian and gay couples and their children, but said he thinks preserving marriage as a heterosexual institution would be a greater good for society.

Blankenhorn said he stands by a statement he wrote in a book entitled “The Future of Marriage” in 2007. The statement was: “With some anguish I would choose marriage as a public good over the rights of same-sex couples.”

Walker told attorneys as testimony ended today that the trial has been “a fascinating case, extremely well presented on both sides.”

Both sides are represented by nationally prominent lawyers.

Boies and the other lead attorney for the plaintiffs, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, were on opposite sides of the legal battle between Al Gore and George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, which ended in a 5-4 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court for Bush. Boies represented Gore and Olson represented Bush.

The lead lawyer for Proposition 8 defenders is Washington, D.C., attorney Charles Cooper.
When asked at the news conference whether he had drawn any lessons from the election dispute about carrying a case to the Supreme Court, Boies joked, “You need five judges.”

12:26 PM: Testimony ended shortly before noon in federal court in San Francisco today in a two-and-a-half week trial on whether California’s ban on same-sex marriage in constitutional.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who will decide the case without a jury, said he will set a date for closing arguments after reviewing the evidence.

He told attorneys, “I’d like to take some time to go over all this material. I will probably key up some questions that have come to the fore.”

Walker is expected to issue a written ruling sometime after hearing the arguments.

The case–the first challenge to a same-sex marriage ban to be heard in a federal rather than state court–is considered likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The trial was on a lawsuit in which a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank claim California’s ban on same-sex marriage, enacted by voters in 2008 as Proposition 8, violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

The measure was defended at the trial by the official sponsors of Proposition 8, who contend the ban is a reasonable way of preserving the traditional definition of marriage and promoting the welfare of children.

The final witness in the case was Daniel Blankenhorn, an author and director of a family values institute, testifying on behalf of the sponsors of Proposition 8.

He testified during cross-examination that he believes gay and lesbian couples and their children would benefit from marriage, but said he thinks that preserving marriage as a heterosexual institution would be a greater good for society.

Walker told attorneys at the close of the court session that the case has been “a fascinating case, extremely well presented on both sides.”

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  • salsaman

    It sounds like this trial has been full of statements like this one from Daniel Blankenhorn– grudging admissions that gay marriage would probably benefit those directly involved, but that it would result in some vague, unnameable harm to society at large. I’m guessing that Judge Walker will rule against Prop 8, but it’s harder to tell how the Supremes would approach these questions.