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Future of Prop 8 on the line at hearing

March 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
California's Supreme Court takes up the ban on gay marriage on Thursday. The future of Proposition 8 is on the line as justices hear arguments on whether to overturn the proposition that was passed by California voters.Even before the hearing began, hundreds of people from both sides showed up to voice their opinions.

  • Miranda: Future of Prop 8 on the line at hearing
  • North: Local reactions to Proposition 8 hearing
  • The case has attracted a circus-like atmosphere on this emotional issue, and with national media covering the case, all eyes are on California. The state Supreme Court's decision could have national implications on same-sex marriages.

    Across from the Supreme Court is a plaza that leads to San Francisco's City Hall. A big television was set up there for people to watch it outside.

    In West Hollywood, gay rights supporters gather at an auditorium to watch the California Supreme Court hearing live.

    The Court's decision will decide whether or not an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages will remain valid.

    For supporters of Proposition 8, the ban is about tradition, while opponents don't like the power of the majority over the minority.

    "The rights of a protected group, a minority, should never be taken to the ballot box so that the majority could reign tyranny on the minority," said Richard Ostlund, who supports gay marriage.

    The justices heard arguments on a trio of lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage approved by voters in November.

    Minutes into Thursday's proceedings, the justices peppered lawyer Shannon Minter, who represents same-sex couples, with tough questions over how the 14 words of Proposition 8 represent a revision of the state's constitution or a denial of fundamental rights.

    Chief Justice Ron George asked what rights were lost other than being able to label their union as a marriage.

    "Relegating same-sex couples to domestic partnership does not provide them with everything but a word," Minter said. "It puts those couples in a second-class status."

    Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote, changing the state's constitution and overriding last May's historic court decision that allowed thousands of same-sex couples to legally get married.

    The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on three points: Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution? Does it violate the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution? And, if it's constitutional, does it affect the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed in the 4½ months before it passed?

    "I'm hoping that they will respect the will of the people and that they'll abide by the law," said Dolores Meehan, a Proposition 8 supporter.

    Proposition 8's sponsors, represented in court by former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, argue that the ballot initiative was approved correctly, and say it would be a miscarriage of justice for the court to overturn the results of a fair election.

    "The court merely has to look at the constitution, which says clearly that marriage is only for a man and a woman, and says that the legislature makes the laws, the people pass initiatives. Only the people can amend the constitution," said Randy Thomason from protectmarraige.com.

    The Court will have about 90 days to make their ruling.

    The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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