American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Introduction: Revisit The Prop. 8 Trial

By Adam Umhofer, AFER executive director

The January 2010 District Court trial of California’s Proposition 8 was America’s truth commission on marriage equality.  For the first time, a federal court heard testimony on marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  It’s easy to appeals to people’s fears and prejudices in campaign literature and 30-second television ads.  But when you come into court and swear under oath, the lies melt away and the truth comes out.

The Prop. 8 Trial

I entered the courtroom behind two of the nation’s  preeminent constitutional lawyers, Ted Olson and David Boies. Beside me, two couples, Kris & Sandy and Jeff & Paul, held each other’s hands, anxious about what was about to happen.

AFER’s legal team, led by Ted and David, meticulously built the case by calling 17 witnesses—the world’s leading experts in history, sociology, parenting, public health and psychology. They also brought to the stand witnesses like AFER’s four plaintiffs to talk about their personal experiences of being gay and to illustrate the harmful effects of marriage discrimination.

And, when it came time for the Prop. 8 Proponents to present their case, AFER’s legal team not only dismantled their arguments, but used their witnesses to prove ours. One witness they called was determined later by the court to lack significant expertise relating to “gay and lesbian political power.” The other said, under oath, that we would be “more American” the day gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry.

The Legacy

The court ruled in our favor, in a historic 136-page decision that said that Prop. 8 violated our Constitution. But the trial was also important because that testimony will continue to be used for years to come. When anyone calls into question whether gay and lesbian Americans deserve equal and fair treatment by the government, we will have a single body of evidence to say “yes, without a doubt, they are.”

As we prepare to take our case to the U.S. Supreme Court and celebrate the three year anniversary of the Prop. 8 trial that kicked-off our journey, AFER highlights each day of the trial. Revisit the drama of the marriage equality truth commission through daily summaries, quotes and photos.

On Tuesday, March 26, Ted and David will enter the halls of our nation’s highest court and make our case for full marriage equality. They will argue once again that the government has no legitimate reason to deny loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

We proved that in trial, we won on appeal, and we will prevail before the Supreme Court.
Watercolors by Vicki Ellen Beheringer