by Rex Wockner
At press time, the trial in the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8 was continuing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco before Judge Vaughn Walker.
Famous heterosexual attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies are trying to convince Walker that Prop. 8, which amended California’s constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law.
Leading gay rights groups have been sidelined in the case, limited to filing “friend of the court” briefs, because they didn’t play nice with Olson and Boies early on. They publicly dissed the case as unwise and poorly timed.
The lawsuit, which likely will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, could lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Conversely, it also could possibly stall the movement for same-sex marriage for a generation, should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold Prop 8.
Judge Walker had wanted to beam video of the trial to other federal courthouses and post it on YouTube, but the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, put the kibosh on that idea Jan. 13, saying officials in the federal courts’ 9th Circuit hadn’t followed proper procedure in lifting the ban on cameras in federal courts.
Olson and Boies strongly supported broadcasting the trial. The pro-Prop. 8 side vociferously opposed the plan, ultimately filing an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to stop it.
Gay activists and commentators suggested that Prop. 8 defenders were horrified at the idea of the trial being broadcast because they know that their anti-gay rhetoric, which is being analyzed in detail at the trial, is hateful, false and, when exposed in full, so unpalatable and embarrassing that it could turn the public against them.
Information introduced during the trial on Jan. 13, for example, revealed that one defendant in the case, Hak-Shing William Tam, wrote a letter to voters during the Prop. 8 campaign saying that once gays have the right to marry, they will pursue legalization of pedophilia.
“On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children,” the letter said. It also claimed that legal same-sex marriage in California would cause “other states (to) fall into Satan’s hands.”
Prop. 8’s lawyers claimed they didn’t want cameras in court for, among other reasons, fear that their witnesses could face nasty retaliation from militant, if not violent, homosexual thugs who saw the video feed.
The anti-same-sex marriage side also objected to the playing in court of their successfully alarmist TV ads from the Prop. 8 campaign, which suggested that gay marriage could lead to schoolchildren being taught inappropriate, bad or wrong things.
Many analysts and commentators believe the gay-marriage-will-harm-your-kids TV ads may have tipped the balance against same-sex marriage in the minds of voters both in California and, more recently, Maine, where some of the California ads were recycled.
The Prop. 8 trial is being live-blogged, tweeted and analyzed to within an inch of its life by an army of bloggers, activists and news reporters.
Some Web sites to check out for extensive Proposition 8 trial coverage:
Analysis from the largest anti-Prop. 8 campaign
American Foundation for Equal Rights
Real-time updates through Twitter, video
Opinions on Prop. 8-related issues
Freedom to Marry
General information on marriage equality