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What Prop 8 Trial Conclusion Could Mean for Gay Marriage

Closing arguments today on the landmark case

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Today concludes the U.S. district case of Perry v. Schwarzanegger, which challenges Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative banning gay marriage in California. The trial, which is expected to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals--and possibly the Supreme Court--no matter the decision, was considered by many gay rights activists to be too risky. Advocates on both sides are watching today's closing arguments very carefully. Here's what's happened so far, what could happen next, and what it means.

  • This Is Bigger Than Just California  The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler explains, "At stake is not only the legality of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that established the ban, but potentially the broader rights of gays and lesbians under the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. ... Judge Walker could tailor his decision to California law, or take a broader tack that addresses federal law vis-a-vis gay marriage."
  • What Ruling Could Mean for Gay Rights  Time's Michael Lindenberger writes, "No ruling is expected today, but already Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, a Republican appointee who is also gay, has tipped his hand at least this much: he's determined to issue a ruling that will be as reversal-proof as possible. ... a ruling by Walker in favor of the two gay couples could pave the way for the legalization of gay marriage throughout the country — or it could have a much more limited impact. Walker could rule against Prop 8, for instance, even without giving gay marriage especially strong constitutional protections. He could simply say that the ballot initiative was simply too arbitrary in taking back rights that the California Supreme Court had already granted to gay couples there."
  • Prop-8 Lawyer Urging All Gay Marriages Annulled  The San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Egelko reports, "the ban's sponsors are urging the judge to go a step further and revoke state recognition of the marriages of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before voters passed Proposition 8. Such an order would honor 'the expressed will of the people,' backers of the November 2008 ballot measure said."
  • Parenting 'Should Be Nonissue' in Case  An L.A. Times editorial explains, "The objective of the lawyers arguing for Proposition 8 before Judge Vaughn R. Walker is to show that voters had rational reasons for approving it rather than being motivated by bigotry. And a key reason, one of the lawyers said, is that children fare best when raised by a married couple of opposite genders. The premise itself is dubious. ... The premise also is irrelevant. Just as we wouldn't propose taking marriage away from heterosexual couples even though their children might not do as well as those of lesbians, there is nothing reasonable about denying marriage to same-sex couples based on judgments about child-rearing or anything else concerning the perceived quality of their marriages."
  • Another Ballot Initiative in 2012?  The Atlantic's Chris Good speculates, "No gay-marriage ballot measures have qualified for California's November 2010 ballot; if the case fails, it is plausible that the diverse community of upstart California gay-rights activists, established California groups, and DC-based gay-rights juggernauts (e.g., the Human Rights Campaign) would move forward with a ballot measure in 2012, the year that more careful gay-rights activists have favored since 2008, due to the bigger, younger, and possibly more liberal turnout of a presidential election year."
  • Persuading Anti-Gay Marriage Voters Is Long Battle  San Francisco alt-weekly Beyond Chron's Paul Hogarth writes, "a new study conducted by the Haas Jr. Foundation looks at pre-election polling data from 33 states that passed anti-gay marriage initiatives. It concludes (a) we always do worse than what polls say, and (b) voters don’t change their minds about this issue during campaigns. The lesson, of course, is that we must work harder to move hearts and minds – and that work can’t be done in a short election season."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.