Same-sex marriage in federal court 

After a run of setbacks at the state level, gay-rights advocates will take the campaign for same-sex marriage into a federal courtroom today, starting down a treacherous avenue that ends at a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by conservatives.

“It’s a high-stakes poker move, no doubt about that,” said Jane Schacter, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University. “I think the calculation for a long time has been that it’s hard to count five votes in favor of same-sex marriage on the current Supreme Court.”

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will preside over a two-week, nonjury trial in a San Francisco  courtroom on a lawsuit in which two couples claim that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal treatment.

The measure was enacted by state voters in 2008 as Proposition 8.

The couples’ lawyers argued in a recent court filing that the initiative “is an irrational, indefensible and unconstitutional measure.”

Prop. 8 sponsors contend, however, that it is a reasonable way of preserving the traditional definition of marriage and supporting what they say is marriage’s central purpose of having children raised by a father and mother.

Their attorneys have written, “The institution of marriage is, and has always been, uniquely concerned with promoting and regulating naturally procreative relationships between men and women to provide for the nurture and upbringing of the next generation.”

The case is considered certain to be appealed eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trial’s broadcast may be blocked

The U.S. Supreme Court received a request Saturday to block the broadcast of a trial on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled last week that the trial could be broadcast on a delayed basis on YouTube. It would be the first broadcast of a federal court case in the U.S., said Theodore Boutrous, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples who are suing to overturn the marriage ban.

Opponents of same-sex marriage asked the Supreme Court to stay Walker’s decision to air the trial, set to begin today. The filing said the lower courts failed to follow procedure in allowing the broadcast, subjecting witnesses to potential harassment.

— Bloomberg News

Proposition 8 trial

What could be a landmark trial in gay rights begins today in The City.

The case: Perry v. Schwarzenegger

The judge: Vaughn Walker, U.S. District Court

The plaintiffs: Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank

The complaint: Proposition 8 violates the federal Constitution

Trial length: Two weeks

The decision: Walker will write his decision sometime after the trial’s conclusion

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