Gay marriage trial draws small crowd 

The gay marriage battle typically ushers in throngs of supporters and opponents when major events on the subject come to San Francisco.

But Monday’s start to the landmark federal trial on the legality of the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex nuptials was far more subdued than when the state’s court ruled on the matter.

Some gay marriage supporters congregated in front of the San Francisco Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue 90 minutes prior to the 9 a.m. start of the trial, which is expected to last around two weeks.

Organizers estimated that between 200 and 300 people gathered for the pre-trial vigil prior the proceedings.

Only a couple of people came to oppose the same-sex unions. Two students from American River College in Sacramento held up a sign denouncing gay marriage that has become common at such rallies.

“I didn’t even have time to wash it,” said Luke Otterstad, 24, who added that he had only heard about the federal trial on the news Sunday night.

Some believe the low turnout was due to the length of the trial. Others said the media has become less interested as the gay marriage debate lumbers into yet another step of the legal process. That the battle has left the political arena and has now settled into its first real court case could be another reason for the relatively subdued sentiment Monday.

But some gay marriage supporters were happy that politics has taken a backseat.

“For the last six years, lesbian and gay couples have often been treated as political footballs, in election after election,” said John Lewis, who along with husband Stuart Gaffney participated in The City’s past legal battles against the gay marriage ban.

“For the first time, there’s actually going to be a trial, an evidentiary hearing,” Lewis said.

The biggest news out of the proceedings Monday became the Supreme Court’s move to block a broadcast of the trail, at least for a few days.

The high court on Monday said it will not allow video of the trial to be posted on YouTube.com, even with a delay, until the justices have more time to consider the issue. It said that Monday’s court order will be in place at least until Wednesday.

Opponents of the broadcast say they fear witness testimony might be affected if cameras are present.

Mayor Gavin Newsom was not pleased about the decision.

“It was disappointing that it’s not televised,” Newsom said. “The courts could lose a little sunshine. The executive, legislative and judicial branches should be more supportive of a more open process.”

Newsom said he has high hopes for the federal trial, a case that has been considered a high risk to take on for gay marriage supporters since it is certain to be appealed eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservatives.

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