Prop. 8 Trial Goes Quiet, For Now

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After both sides on the Prop. 8 legal battle rested their case Wednesday morning, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker called the case he's presiding over "fascinating." The fundamental question is simple enough: Does Prop. 8 violate the rights of gays and lesbians under the U.S. Constitution?

Ted Boutros, an attorney representing opponents of the measure, says one fact underpins their argument that the measure does discriminate. "The Supreme Court has said over and over and over, marriage is a fundamental right, it's a fundamental liberty." he said.

But does that fundamental right apply to same-sex couples? Or is it OK for voters to restrict it to heterosexuals?

Andy Pugno, one of the attorneys defending Prop. 8 asserts, "It's not the role of the Court, and it's not proper for judges to substitute their own views on these political questions for the judgment of the people. And that's what this case really boils down to is who gets to decide?"

But the trial explored a number of vast and complex issues: the nature of sexual orientation, the meaning of marriage, and the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Opponents of Prop. 8 tried to paint the measure as rooted in hatred. Plaintiffs' attorney David Boies said his side demonstrated that Yes-on-8 supporters used conservative church groups to influence voters with prejudice and stereotypes.  "And that there was no justification, none, zero, for depriving gays and lesbians the right to marry," Boies said.

Boies is hoping to convince Judge Walker that sexual orientation deserves the same kind of legal protection as race, gender and religion.

Legal analyst David Levine, from UC Hastings Law School, says opponents of Prop. 8 have put on a strong case, but have a long way to go before accomplishing their goal. "It's still a very, very tough case in the sense that there are a lot of legal challenges between what the plaintiffs want to accomplish and getting a final decision on appeal, especially from the U.S. Supreme Court."

Closing arguments will be scheduled for later in the year -- probably late March or April. I'll continue to update this blog during the downtime (although likely with less frequency) … so stay tuned.

You can hear the radio version of this story, heard this morning on The California Report, at our web site. You can also listen right here by clicking on the player below:

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  • Liz Melchor

    I was at the trial a couple of the days and from the point of view of a spectator the plaintiffs were kicking some defendant butt. However, I am not a lawyer or a law student and although I have searched the internet I have found it very hard to find somewhere that has clearly listed the legal issues at hand.

    I realize the case is much more complicated than just displaying that voters were motivated by prejudice. I would really appreciate if you could delineate or report on the exact legal issues that the lawyers need to address and overcome.

    Also, I don’t see the link to the complete hearing transcripts in the sidebar: