Prop. 8: Protesters on both sides of gay-marriage issue make their views known outside courthouse
Dozens of demonstrators on both sides of the same-sex marriage question carried signs outside the downtown federal courthouse in San Francisco on Monday morning, as arguments on Proposition 8 began before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some anti-gay-marriage protesters shouted and carried signs that referenced "God's Law." On the other side, gay rights supporters held signs calling for marriage equality. A strong police presence watched over it all.
Inside, the courtroom was packed with media and lawyers, as were several overflow rooms.
A randomly chosen three-judge panel will hear an appeal of an August ruling by San Francisco’s Chief U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who ruled after a trial that the 2008 ballot measure defining marriage as only between a man and a woman violated the U.S. Constitution.
The appeals court is considering two questions: whether opponents of same-sex marriage have legal authority to appeal Walker’s ruling and whether the 2008 ballot measure that reinstated the marriage ban in California violates federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
The randomly chosen panel includes Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a California liberal appointed by President Carter; Judge N. Randy Smith, a conservative from Idaho appointed by President George W. Bush; and Judge Michael Hawkins, a moderate Democratic appointee whose vote is expected to be critical.
“It’s a very favorable panel for the challengers to Proposition 8,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert on the 9th Circuit.
Hawkins, an Arizonan appointed by President Clinton, “is the one to watch most closely,” Hellman said. He has sided with liberals in some key cases and will probably cast the decisive vote in the case if there is a split decision, Hellman and other analysts said.
Besides looking for clues to Hawkins’ leanings, legal analysts said they would pay close attention to any comments from the judges on Walker’s factual findings. Walker ruled that the trial evidence showed that homosexuality was not easily changed and that children of same-sex couples fare just as well as those in opposite-sex households.
Monday’s extraordinary two-hour session began at 10 a.m. and is being broadcast live on CSPAN. Latimes.com also will blog about the hearing live and post expert opinion from three law professors as they watch it.
Some of the nation’s top lawyers will be making the arguments. Representing the challengers to Proposition 8, David Boies will argue that opponents of gay marriage lack authority to appeal, and Theodore Olson will handle the constitutional issues. Charles Cooper, a Washington-based lawyer, will represent ProtectMarriage.com, the sponsors of Proposition 8. All three have strong track records.
--Maura Dolan in San Francisco
Photo: Testimony in Prop. 8 trial. Credit: CSPAN