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Aug 4, 2010 5:22 PM by Melissa Canone

Federal Judge Overturned California's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal judge overturned California's
same-sex marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could
eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays
have a constitutional right to marry in America, according to a
person close to the case.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a
lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban
violated their civil rights.
Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the
traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible
childbearing.
California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November
2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay
marriage.
Both sides previously said an appeal was certain if Walker did
not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court if the high court
justices agree to review it.
Walker heard 13 days of testimony and arguments since January
during the first trial in federal court to examine if states can
prohibit gays from getting married.
The verdict was the second in a federal gay marriage case to
come down in recent weeks. A federal judge in Massachusetts decided
last month the state's legally married gay couples had been wrongly
denied the federal financial benefits of marriage because of a law
preventing the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions.
The plaintiffs in the California case presented 18 witnesses.
Academic experts testified about topics ranging from the fitness of
gay parents and religious views on homosexuality to the historical
meaning of marriage and the political influence of the gay rights
movement.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson delivered the
closing argument for opponents of the ban. He told Judge Walker
that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally
insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.
Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue the case, bringing
together the two litigators best known for representing George W.
Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.
Defense lawyers called just two witnesses, claiming they did not
need to present expert testimony because U.S. Supreme Court
precedent was on their side. The attorneys also said gay marriage
was an experiment with unknown social consequences that should be
left to voters to accept or reject.
Former U.S. Justice Department lawyer Charles Cooper, who
represented the religious and conservative groups that sponsored
the ban, said cultures around the world, previous courts and
Congress all accepted the "common sense belief that children do
best when they are raised by their own mother and father."
In an unusual move, the original defendants, California Attorney
General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to
support Proposition 8 in court.
That left the work of defending the law to Protect Marriage, the
group that successfully sponsored the ballot measure that passed
with 52 percent of the vote after the most expensive political
campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.
Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in
Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and
Washington, D.C.

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