Reading Tea Leaves

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The Prop. 8 trial and Wednesday's closing arguments are grist for discussion and speculation at the Journalist Law School Fellowship at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles this week. I'm here at the invitation of Loyola along with 40 other journalists from across the country to learn about the intersection of journalism and the law. Among law faculty here you can't find a single person who didn't think Judge Walker will strike down Prop. 8. That's been clear for some time, but the skepticism and derision he directed at defense attorney Charles Cooper sealed the deal. Law professor Doug NeJaime, who teaches Law & Sexuality here, commented that until Wednesday Judge Vaughn Walker didn't seem that interested in the idea of a narrower ruling, one that would only affect states like California and Washington, where gay and lesbian couples have broad legal rights but can't get married. Prof. NeJaime believes Judge Walker is warming to that kind of decision, one he thinks gay rights advocates would prefer as it might be easier to defend at the U.S. Supreme Court. Prof. NeJaime also noted that one overlooked aspect of the case against Prop. 8 is that it discriminates not just on the basis of sexual orientation (which does not yet have special protection under federal law) but on the basis of sex (which is covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment). Another law professor here (whose name I won't mention as it could compromise his relationships) says talking to clerks of Judge Walker's gives him the impression that the decision will be very long and detailed and is mostly written. Meanwhile, ecstatic Lakers fans are celebrating outside my hotel window.

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