HRC Blog

Prop 8 Trial to Conclude on Wednesday After Lengthy Hiatus

On Wednesday, more than four months after a two-week trial the captured national attention (despite a last-minute bar to its broadcast from the Supreme Court), Judge Vaughn Walker will hear closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8.  Last week, Judge Walker issued an order detailing a list of questions he wants both sides to answer either before or during their closing arguments.  With the questions he has put forward, and the powerful case put forward by plaintiffs’ attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, Wednesday’s arguments will no doubt hammer home what we know to be true – Proposition 8 denies same-sex couples the fundamental protections of the U.S. Constitution and cannot stand. To refresh your recollection, here’s a little background on the Perry case: On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court concluded that California’s denial of full marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the state’s constitution.  Shortly thereafter, California began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and thousands married there.  On November 4, 2008, California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, which wrote a ban on marriage for same-sex couples into the state’s constitution.  Marriage equality advocates filed a state court challenge to Proposition 8, arguing that California’s constitution does not permit voters to eliminate civil rights through an initiative.  That challenge failed. In May of 2009, on the eve of the California Supreme Court’s decision upholding Proposition 8, attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson—famous for representing Al Gore and George W. Bush, respectively, in Bush v. Gore—filed a federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, arguing that California’s new constitutional provision violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution.  The case, filed on behalf of couples Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, was assigned Judge Vaughn Walker in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  A two-week trial to determine whether the facts support California’s justifications for Proposition 8 was held in January 2010.  After Wednesday’s closing arguments, Judge Walker will deliberate and issue an opinion, sometime in the coming months.  Regardless of which party prevails, that decision will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the intermediate appellate court in the federal system.  Stay tuned to HRC Back Story for a wrap-up of Wednesday’s arguments and next steps in this historic trial.

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