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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid