December 6, 2010
Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Marriage; CitizenLink Analyst is There
Posted by Jennifer Mesko
A three-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments today on the constitutionality of California’s marriage protection amendment.
In August, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8, claiming it violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Today’s 2 1/2-hour hearing focused on two issues: Do marriage advocates have the right to defend Proposition 8 in court? And is the amendment constitutional?
Bruce Hausknecht, the judicial analyst at CitizenLink and a lawyer, was in the courtroom.
“The arguments did not reveal any new or nuanced reasonings from either side,” he said. “But the questioning did let us see into the mind of the judges.
“It’s fascinating that (liberal) Judge Reinhardt is seeming to ask whether he could figure out a less extreme way of deciding this case than on declaring a United States constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”
Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for marriage advocates, told the court that the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage and its ties to procreation provided California with a rational basis to pass Prop 8.
“The people of California, and Americans throughout the country, are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the meaning, purposes and definition of marriage. This court is presented with this fundamental question: It is whether the definition of marriage — that momentous issue — is one for the people themselves to resolve through the democratic process, as they did in enacting Proposition 8, or whether our constitution takes that issue essentially out of their hands.
“The key reason that marriage has existed at all in any society and at any time is that sexual relationships between men and women naturally produce children. Society has no particular interest in a platonic relationship between a man and a woman, no matter how close, how committed it may be.”
Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council, said Cooper couldn’t have done a better job.
“We found (him) to be extremely prepared with legal case after legal case to argue,” he said. “We’re very pleased. We believe we will be granted standing in order to have this case heard by the 9th Circuit and ultimately by the Supreme Court.”
A ruling on Proposition 8 — which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman — will come in the new year. The appeals court could send the case back to California courts. Incoming state Attorney General Kamala Harris has said she will not defend the marriage amendment.
During today’s hearing, conservative Judge Randy Smith chided Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and outgoing state Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Jerry Brown for failing to defend Prop. 8.
“We have an attorney general and a governor with no ability to nullify the acts of the people, and then by not appealing they, in fact, do it,” he said.
Reinhardt, a liberal, concurred: “If the state doesn’t defend it, it’s just tossing in the towel,” he said.
Advocates on both sides of the debate expect the issue eventually will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This Proposition 8 case is bigger than California and bigger than the definition of marriage,” Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, told CBN News. “It not only affects the definition of marriage but also religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Blog: How was liberal Judge Stephen Reinhardt “randomly selected” for the panel?
- Despite Conflict of Interest, Judge Says He’ll Hear Prop. 8 Case
- Closing Arguments in Historic Marriage Challenge Begin
- DEVELOPING: California Court Denies Petition to Force State Officers to Defend Marriage
- Judge Rules Against Marriage (Again); Extends Temporary Hold While Appeals Court Reviews
- California Supreme Court Declined Request to Order Officials to Defend Marriage