Yesterday Chief District Judge Vaughn R. Walker heard closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal lawsuit challenging California's Proposition 8. Mainstream media reports from a host of outlets shined a light on the case. CNN, Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others covered the story. Bloggers and LGBT press also followed the case moment by moment via twitter.
Ted Olson and David Boies served as attorneys for the plaintiffs. Olson, was U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush and Boies was his adversary in the Supreme Court ruling in 2000 which elevated George W. Bush to the White House. CNN produced a compelling portrait of how these one time rivals decided to pair up in the fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples. You can find the transcript here.
Reuters reported that during the case, attorney Charles Cooper, who led the defense, argued that "it is reasonable to fear that allowing same-sex marriage would undermine heterosexual marriage and self-evident that the purpose of marriage was procreating and raising children."
As reported by Reuters, Cooper said: "'You don’t have to have evidence' to prove that the purpose of marriage is to bear and raise children, he said in the closing arguments, citing legal precedents."
"Months earlier, he had surprised the court by saying he did not know how gay marriage would hurt heterosexuals—and that he did not need to know in order to win the case."
Reuters went on the report that Olson shot back during Wednesday's closing arguments, saying: “At the end of the day, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I don’t have to present any evidence,’ with all respect to Mr. Cooper, doesn’t cut it.”
Following yesterday's court proceedings Olson and Boies released an extensive list of their key arguments in the case through their organization, the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Here's a lengthy excerpt:
The American Foundation for Equal Rights brought together Olson and David Boies, who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore, to demonstrate that Prop. 8 violates Americans’ U.S. constitutional rights by creating separate classes of people with different laws for each, in conflict with the nation’s founding principles, including equal protection under the law. Prop. 8 unconstitutionally stripped away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California .
“For Kris and I, this case for us is about how we, as Americans, just want to be treated equally by our government," said plaintiff Sandy Stier, who with Kris Perry comprise one of the couples who are plaintiffs in the case. Stier spoke at the courthouse immediately before going inside this morning. “All we're asking the court to do is make sure we're protected under our Constitution like everyone is supposed to be," said plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo before entering the courthouse with Sandy, Kris and Paul Katami. “This trial clearly demonstrated Proposition 8’s denial of equal protection under the law,” said Chad Griffin , Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “No law may violate the U.S. Constitution. Our nation’s Founders established the courts to protect every American’s constitutional rights against discriminatory laws. This case is not about special rights for Kris, Sandy, Paul and Jeff. Rather, it’s about ensuring they simply have the same rights as every American.” OLSON CLOSING EXCERPTS
- “They merely wish for themselves the status the State of California accords to their neighbors, their friends, their coworkers and their relatives,” Olson said in court of the plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and those also affected by Proposition 8. “The Supreme Court said the right to equal protection of the laws is the protection of equal laws.”
- “We conclude this trial, your honor, where we began. This case is about marriage and equality. The fundamental constitutional right to marry has been taken away from the plaintiffs, and tens of thousands of similarly situated Californians. Their state has rewritten its constitution in order to place them into a special disfavored category where their most intimate personal relationships are not valid, not recognized and second rate,” Olson said in court today. “There is not a compelling governmental interest to put the plaintiffs in a class like this and take away what the Supreme Court has called a fundamental right, a right of liberty, privacy, association, intimacy and autonomy.”
- “Our fundamental rights can't be taken away unless the state has a very, very fundamental, strong, compelling reason to do so and acts with surgical precision so that it takes no more than the compelling reason justifies,” Olson said in court.
- “Their state has stigmatized them as unworthy of marriage, different, and less respected,” Olson said in court of plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and those also affected by Proposition 8.
- “This is discrimination, the taking away from a fundamental right as articulated by the Supreme Court,” Olson said in court of Proposition 8, later adding that since 1888 no less than 14 Supreme Court rulings have recognized marriage as a fundamental right.
- “The Supreme Court has said that marriage is the most important relation in life. Now that's being withheld from the plaintiffs,” Olson said in court. “Marriage, the Supreme Court has said again and again, is a component of liberty, privacy, spirituality and autonomy.”
- “[Prop 8.] prevents a complete choice as to marriage and designates gays and lesbians as less worthy and entitled to less honor, less status and fewer benefits. Marriage is special, the experts tell us. Domestic partnerships and civil unions are pale comparisons,” Olson said in court.
- “This law is discriminatory. The evidence is overwhelming that it imposes great social harm on individuals who are our equals. They are members of our society. They pay their taxes. They want to form a household. They want to raise their children in happiness and in the same way that their neighbors do. We are imposing great damage on them by the institution of the State of California saying they are different and they cannot have the happiness, they cannot have the privacy, they cannot have the liberty, they cannot have the intimate association in the context of a marriage that the rest of our citizens do,” Olson said in court.
The plaintiffs in the case want to be married but cannot because of Prop. 8. Kris and Sandy have been together for more than ten years and their family includes four boys. Both are in public service — Kris leads a childhood health and education agency and Sandy works for a county health department. Their home life centers around their kids, with PTA meetings, soccer and music lessons taking up much of their free time.
Paul and Jeff have been together for nine years. Jeff is a general manager for a movie theater company and Paul is a business owner. They own a home together and are proud uncles. The powerful testimony of the plaintiffs, along with the presentation of 17 witnesses and revealing cross-examination of the defendant-intervenors’ witnesses, clearly exposed the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8.
A summary of the trial is available here.
Judge Vaughn R. Walker is expected to issue a ruling in the next few weeks. We'll keep you up to date on the media's coverage of this historic marriage equality case.