American Foundation for Equal Rights

New York Times: Closing Arguments in Trial on California Gay Marriage


San Francisco — More than six months after they challenged California’s ban on same-sex marriage, lawyers returned to court on Wednesday to make their final case to a federal judge.

Closing arguments in the closely watched trial were set to begin at 10 a.m. here, and protesters and crowds began forming in front of the federal courthouse hours earlier. About 100 gay rights supporters carried placards reading, “We All Deserve the Right to Marry,” and in one case, “I Am Somebody.”

The challenge to the ban — Proposition 8, passed by California voters in 2008 — was filed last year by two same-sex couples who say it violates their constitutional guarantees to equal protection and to due process.

“All we’ve asked the court to do is make sure that we’re protected under our Constitution, like every other American,” said Jeffrey J. Zarrillo, one of the plaintiffs, standing beside his partner, Paul Katami.

The plaintiffs hired two experienced litigators from opposite sides of the political spectrum — Theodore Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides of the 2000 Supreme Court battle, Bush v. Gore, the case that decided the presidential election.

Arguments in the trial — presided over by Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco — began in early January, and included two weeks of evidence and testimony by advocates for same-sex marriage. The defense offered a much more limited testimony, with two witnesses arguing — among other points — that same-sex marriage damages traditional marriage as an institution and that special judicial protections were unnecessary for gay people.

This month, Judge Walker issued several dozen questions to help clarify arguments, asking about the supposed harm of allowing same-sex marriages as well as the government’s interest in forbidding them.

Wednesday’s arguments took place exactly two years to the day — June 16, 2008 — when hundreds of same-sex couples were married in California at the start of a five-month period when such unions were legal in the state. Proposition 8 ended those marriages, though the California Supreme Court ruled in May 2009 that the 18,000 or so marriages performed in the five-month period were still valid.

Read the full piece here.