News / USA

California's Gay Marriage Trial Gears Up for High Court

Inside a federal courthouse in San Francisco, California, the trial to overturn a ban on gay marriage is wrapping up.

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, commonly known as the Proposition 8 trial, has raised debates in secular and religious communities across the United States.  But sorting out these moral and legal arguments can make following the trial, and its ramifications, confusing.

Stuart Gaffney married John Lewis in 2008.  Both men head Marriage Equality USA, a grassroots organization that promotes the freedom of gays and lesbians to marry. 

"Having your rights up for a popular vote as happened with Proposition 8 was particularly stressful," he said.

The question of whether marriage is a constitutional right weighs heavily in this debate.

Supporters of gay marriage say that it is and that you can't put people's rights to a vote.  

But attorney Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defense fund, the group defending Proposition 8, disagrees. "Well there's no right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution," he said.

This, too, is complicated.  The fourteenth amendment to the constitution guarantees equal protection for all under the law but makes no reference to marriage one way or the other.  Because of this, the lawyers on both sides, as well as the public, spent much of the trial trying to define it.
 
On the streets outside the courthouse, and in the gay-friendly Castro neighborhood nearby, it's business as usual.  The trial, unlike the vote on Proposition 8, has provoked almost no public demonstration in San Francisco.

Ken Avery volunteers at Under One Roof, a store in Castro which donates profits to the HIV/AIDS community.  He participated in demonstrations against Proposition 8 two years ago and explains why people may not be taking to the streets over the trial now. "The election had consequences that day.  This trial I think a lot of people look at as the beginning of a very long process," he said.

This process, many observers say, will include appeals and retrials at higher courts until the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.  A vigil held early on the first day of testimony has been the main demonstration about the trial in San Francisco since it started January 11.  Hundreds of gay marriage supporters, including Gaffney and Lewis, gathered outside of the courthouse to, as Gaffney puts it, bear witness to history.

"I think what we're really bearing witness to here is love.  Many of the people who came to the vigil were there because they were in love and want to support others in love," he said.

But Nimocks argues that this trial, more than anything else, is about democracy. "The most important and the most cherished right of all is the right to vote.  And so when you have over seven million Californians vote on something very important, upholding their right to vote on that and make that important decision is of the utmost importance under the United States' constitution," he said.

Many opponents of gay marriage say that Californians already decided this issue in 2008.  Others, though, like Avery, believe that this trial has a much deeper significance.

People often ask him why this issue matters so much. Why gay people need to say they're married when civil unions afford them almost the same legal rights as straight couples.  Avery tells them he remembers growing up in Oklahoma during segregation and seeing separate water fountains outside of his courthouse.

"They were identical water fountains.  And I say, 'Why were the African American people so upset that the coloreds had just that water one fountain?'  And I think the more telling question is, why was it so important for whites to have their only water fountain? And I think it's that when you have the exclusive use of that, you're telling the other people that they are not as good as you.  They do not deserve it as you do.  And every time you drink from that coloreds-only water fountain, you're buying into 'I am less than you are better," he said.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs