Prop 8 Trial Wraps up with Grim Prospects for Marriage Defenders

The closing arguments of the trial against California’s Proposition 8 finished Wednesday with little fanfare. Now both sides can only wait for the verdict, which pro-family leaders expect will overturn the voter-approved constitutional amendment upholding marriage as between a man and a woman.

As protesters waved placards outside the courtroom, representatives of both sides largely rehashed the testimony and arguments already presented to the judge throughout the trial, during a 5-hour long concluding session.

Opponents of Prop 8 claimed a fundamental right to marriage that extends to same-sex couples, and compared the ban on same-sex “marriage” to historical bans on interracial marriage.

Meanwhile, the defense maintained that the state has a fundamental interest in the fruitful union between a man and a woman that simply does not pertain to same-sex relations.

Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, arguing against Prop 8, insisted that the measure was “an attempt to enforce private moral beliefs about a disfavored minority” backed by pro-family religious groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Knights of Columbus. Both institutions have been subject to a hail of threats for playing an active role in supporting Prop 8 in the lead-up to the 2008 vote.

Prop 8 attorney Chuck Cooper, on the other hand, argued that several court rulings in other states have recognized that instituting same-sex “marriage” essentially changes the definition of marriage as understood in common law, and that California has always understood marriage to be between a man and a woman. He also argued that marriage was a public institution of key import to the stability of a society, rather than a matter of private choice.

The closing arguments also touched upon the matter of the approximately 18,000 marriage contracts handed out to homosexual couples in the brief interim in 2008 when California, thanks to a ruling by the state Supreme Court, recognized the existence of same-sex “marriage.” Prop 8 defendants argued that the state is blatantly ignoring the “expressed will of the people” by refusing to consider the contracts invalid.  Proposition 8 states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Maggie Gallagher, President of the National Organization for Marriage, said that in her view the judge “came into this courtroom strongly inclined to rule against Prop 8.”

“His interjections indicate pretty strongly that that’s what he’s going to do. I expect he will overturn Prop 8 – I don’t think it’s because of arguments that were made in the courtroom that day,” Gallagher told Thursday.

Gallagher said that Judge Walker “seemed extremely open to one side of the arguments and he seemed to have difficulty understanding the other side’s arguments.”

An example of the communication rift was when Cooper was forced to explain that procreation’s central role in marriage was patently clear from the laws of nature, after Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker pressed Cooper for “evidence” that such was the case. It was earlier revealed that Walker is himself openly homosexual.

Gallagher also noted that reporters at a press conference “burst into applause” when the anti-Prop 8 lawyers ascended to the microphone. “I think that says a lot about the media’s preferences on this issue,” she said.

While attempts had been made by anti-Prop 8 advocates to televise the concluding arguments, Judge Walker had struck down a final plea on the issue. Defendants said televising the testimony would have exposed their witnesses to the climate of violent harassment that has descended upon pro-family Californians since the passage of the amendment. Earlier in the trial, the judge had permitted such a broadcast, but the U.S. Supreme Court intervened to strike down the move as chilling free speech.

Gallagher said that it was because of the threat of televising that several defense witnesses ended up declining to testify.

A ruling on the case is expected within the summer months.

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