Prop. 8 Trial Set for Jan. 11

A trial on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 has been scheduled for Jan. 11, 2010, a federal judge announced on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker also denied the requests of three gay rights groups and one conservative family group to intervene in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case.

The federal judge, however, allowed the city of San Francisco to join the case against the state's constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. He said the city brings a unique perspective to the case in terms of the financial impact that banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples has on local governments.

"It seems to the court that what distinguishes San Francisco as intervenors is San Francisco claims a governmental interest that no other party, including the governor and the attorney general, sought to raise," said Walker, who had previously expressed his desire to proceed "expeditiously" to a trial.

The city's participation will be limited to demonstrating any governmental impact of Proposition 8, according to Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com.

But Pugno said he's concerned plaintiffs in the case will place voters who supported the amendment on trial, despite the opposing counsel's vow to the court that "they would attempt no discovery that violates the First Amendment rights of the proponents."

"We will vigorously resist the plaintiffs being allowed to conduct a fishing expedition into the motives of those who support traditional marriage," said Pugno, who helped lead the successful campaign for Proposition 8 in November.

Top litigators Theodore B. Olson and David Boies – who represented the opposing sides of the Bush v. Gore case in 2000 – filed a lawsuit in federal court in May on behalf of two same-sex couples, arguing that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process of the law.

It was filed just before the California Supreme Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8. The state court also kept intact the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place before the November vote.

Opponents argue that the 52 percent of California voters who supported the amendment did so out of anti-gay bigotry.

Refuting the claim, Pugno said it is "preposterous to think that the 7 million California voters who supported Proposition 8 were motivated out of bigotry and discrimination."

"That is essentially the claim by the plaintiffs in this case," he said.

"Prop. 8 was always about restoring and reclaiming the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a women and upholding the will of the people who had already overwhelmingly voted in favor of traditional marriage."