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Proposition 8 opponent testifies about importance of marriage

January 11, 2010 |  1:13 pm

Shortly after opening arguments concluded, David Boies, an attorney representing the challengers to Proposition 8, called to the stand two of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit.

Jeffrey Zarrillo, who has been in a relationship with another man for nearly nine years, testified that he wanted to marry Paul Katami.

"He is the love of my life. I love him probably more than I love myself. I would do anything for him," Zarrillo said.

Zarrillo said others would view his and Katami's relationship differently if they were married. "It says to them, 'These individuals are serious, these individuals are committed to each other,' " he testified, his voice breaking often as he spoke.

Court has adjourned for the midday break.

The unprecedented federal trial on marriage rights got underway this morning. Challengers of Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed by California voters in 2008 to ban same-sex marriage, called marriage "one of the most vital personal rights," while a lawyer defending the ban declared same-sex matrimony a risky and novel "experiment."

Theodore Olson, an attorney for two same-sex couples challenging Proposition 8,  told the court that marriage was "central to life in America."

"It's the building block of family, neighborhood and community in our society," Olson said in the packed San Francisco courtroom of U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

But Charles Cooper, representing proponents of the ban, said same-sex marriage was too new and too rare to know what consequences it may have.

"People of California are entitled to await the results of that experiment … before they make a fundamental change and alteration in the traditional definition of marriage."

The case, Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, is expected to  eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Both sides have hired leading legal advocates with lots of experience before the high court.

Walker, a Republican appointee known for independence, will decide whether Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage violates U.S. constitutional rights of equal protection and due process. Walker's pretrial rulings have tended to favor supporters of same-sex marriage.

Unlike other court cases about marriage rights, the trial before Walker will involve weeks of testimony on wide-ranging issues.

"Actually putting witnesses on the stand has never been done before in any lawsuit claiming a right to same-sex marriage," said Proposition 8 campaign attorney Andy Pugno. "So this is a very out-of-the-ordinary approach."

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco federal court

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