The debate over Proposition 8 has been a heated one in the state of California. The proposition stems from a May 2008 California State Supreme Court decision that made it legal for the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That 2008 State Supreme Court decision overruled Proposition 22, which was passed in 2000 with 61 of the vote and was designed to limit marriage in California to the union between a man and a woman. After the court overturned Proposition 22, Proposition 8 was filed in order to restore the ban on gay marriage and to halt the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples.

Proposition 8, which has been alternatively labeled the “Marriage Equality Act” or the “Marriage Protection Act” (depending on one’s perspective), passed in November 2008. As a result, the state again prohibited the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples. A challenge to the proposition was filed, but in May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 as a valid constitutional amendment. With that decision, however, the court also chose to uphold the marriages for the same-sex couples who were legally wed before Proposition 8 went into effect.

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger Federal Court Case

On January 11, 2010, arguments in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger federal court case began. The case was filed by two same-sex couples in May 2009 in anticipation of the California Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Proposition 8. The main issue in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger case is whether or not the proposition violates the United States Constitution by denying gay and lesbian couples equal protection under the law.

The court case is being heard by US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, a Republican appointee who has a reputation for independent thinking. The head lawyers who are challenging the ban are Theodore Olson, a noted conservative lawyer who supports same-sex marriage, and attorney David Boies. This pairing is quite noteworthy as Olson and Boies argued against each other in the famous Supreme Court case of Bush vs. Gore that decided the outcome of the 2000 United States presidential election. The lawyer for the Proposition 8 Campaign is an attorney by the name of Andy Pugno.

The case is certainly a hot-button one for individuals on both sides of the issue. In fact, many gay rights advocates themselves opposed the filing of a lawsuit, arguing that a precedent in this case that was not favorable for the LGBT community could actually hinder the cause of gay rights.

A decision is expected to be issued by Judge Walker in writing in the next couple of weeks, at which point the case will likely be appealed to the 9th Circuit and then to the Supreme Court. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is named in the case’s title has refused to defend the proposition.

Youtube Coverage of the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger Case

Because the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has recently permitted the coverage of select civil trials, Judge Walker agreed to allow video of the case to be posted on Youtube at the end of each day. In response, the proponents of Proposition 8 filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court asking that the video be barred because those who oppose gay marriage and are in favor of upholding Proposition 8 may face harassment for their testimony. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the temporary stay on Youtube video coverage, which is in effect until Wednesday, January 13. Justice Stephen Breyer was the only dissenter in the ruling, stating that he did not believe the emergency appeal met the requirements for approval by the court. The issue of video coverage will be re-evaluated after the temporary ban expires.

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