SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–With demonstrators outside the courthouse and an overflow crowd inside the courtroom, a closely watched federal trial that could force every state to legalize “gay marriage” concluded its first day of witness testimony Monday.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco will determine whether California was within its rights to prohibit “gay marriage” in 2008 by adopting Proposition 8. The case likely will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court and determine the constitutionality of laws and constitutional amendments not only in California but in other states that protect the traditional definition of marriage.
Each day during the trial Baptist Press will post a blog entry from someone in the courtroom. Following is a blog from Andy Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com, the group that sponsored Prop 8:
“We’re off. The first day of trial is concluded and we are beginning to see the outlines of the plaintiffs’ case emerge. Emotion was the order of the day as our opponents took the stand to describe examples of ‘awkward’ situations and social discomfort in their everyday life experiences. They also testified about how they experienced ‘hurt feelings’ whenever they saw a Yes on Prop 8 campaign ad, bumper sticker, or sign.”
“One witness took particular offense by the campaign’s advertisements that encouraged voters to vote yes to ‘protect our children.’ You’ll remember that the campaign had informed voters that legally recognizing same-sex marriage would interfere with the rights of parents to raise their own children according to their own beliefs. The witness actually admitted that he believes parents should have the primary responsibility for instilling moral values in children, but still couldn’t see that reasonable voters would feel the need to ‘protect our children’ from laws that infringe on those parental rights.”
“What were conspicuously missing from the plaintiffs’ testimony were any examples of complaints that could be legally remedied by striking down Prop 8. It was quite apparent that striking down Prop 8 would not likely put an end to uncomfortable social experiences such as ‘puzzled looks’ from people they meet.”
“Several times Judge Walker interrupted the plaintiffs to question whether the state should be ‘in the marriage business’ at all, asking if the plaintiffs would be happy with eliminating marriage altogether — and allowing only domestic partnerships for both man/woman and same-sex couples. Amazingly the plaintiffs testified that would be acceptable to them. They actually said: if same-sex couples can’t have marriage, then no one should. Obviously, the elimination of marriage for everybody is certainly not what the people of California, or the nation, have in mind as an appropriate solution to this debate.”
“Both from the opening arguments delivered by plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Olson, and the witness testimony, it is clear that our opponents are trying to re-characterize Prop 8 — which simply restored the age-old meaning of marriage — as part of a agenda of hate and discrimination against gays and lesbians. One attorney said as much, claiming that Prop 8 promotes hate crimes against gays and lesbians, depression, homelessness, etc. These claims are preposterous, and we hope that they will be seen as such as the trial progresses.”
“The last witness [Monday] was Harvard Professor Nancy Cott who testified about the history of marriage in the United States. Amazingly, Cott testified that marriage has not been universally understood to be an opposite-sex relationship throughout most of history. Her testimony resumes tomorrow, and then our legal team will have an opportunity to cross-examine about her historical opinions.”
“Lastly, the debate rages on about televising the Prop 8 trial. Our opponents continue to insist that televising this trial is important to help ‘educate the public’ about same-sex marriage and promote public awareness of the nature of same-sex relationships. Those justifications actually make our point that the trial should not be televised! The federal courts are supposed to be the guardian of our right to a ‘fair and impartial trial.’ The courts have never been intended for use as a tool to ‘educate the public.’ And there is no need in this case. We all know there is no shortage of high-profile public debate about the marriage issue, and we need not turn this proceeding into a ‘show trial’ at the expense of fairness and impartiality to ourselves, our witnesses, and our ability to put on a full legal defense.”
“On this point, the United States Supreme Court’s order [Monday] that temporarily stayed Judge Walker’s plans to broadcast the trial on the Internet via YouTube is a hopeful sign that our nation’s highest court will give this issue their immediate attention and full consideration and protect our right to a fair trial.”
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press. Visit ProtectMarriage.com for more information about the trial.