A federal judge scheduled a January 2010 trial date yesterday in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the November 2008 ballot initiative that overturned the right of same-sex marriage in the state. The suit, filed in May by two prominent attorneys known for arguing against one another over the 2000 presidential election in Bush v. Gore, is on the behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses after the passage of Proposition 8.
In addition to setting a trial date, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, denied requests to intervene in the case by LGBT rights groups including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The Campaign for California Families, which supports the measure, was also denied a request to intervene in the suit, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. However, Judge Walker did allow intervention in the case by the city of San Francisco due to the city’s unique perspective on the financial impact a ban on same sex marriage has on local governments, according to the Associated Press.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera responded to the Judge’s decision to allow the city to intervene in the case in a statement, “In terms of our unique public sector perspective and the evidence we’ve already developed, we think the City is an extremely well-prepared co-plaintiff in the kind of trial Judge Walker envisions. We are ready to help put anti-gay discrimination on trial based on the facts, and our office has the experience and expertise to assist in aggressively doing that.”
The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 in a 6 to 1 ruling in May 2009. The proposition, which passed 52 percent to 48 percent, overturned a May 2008 ruling of the state Supreme Court that resulted in, among other provisions, the legalization of same sex marriage in the state. The Court’s 2009 opinion (see PDF) preserved the marriages of the 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California during the period same-sex marriage was legal.
Same sex marriage is currently legal in six states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Legislation to legalize same sex marriage remains under consideration in New York.