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Supreme Court readies for Prop. 8 oral arguments

March 25, 2013|By Kate Mather
  • Demonstrators set up beach chairs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where dozens of people waited in line Monday for a chance to attend oral arguments Tuesday over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
Demonstrators set up beach chairs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington,… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear historic oral arguments Tuesday morning on Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot measure that banned gay marriage in the state and the first of two gay-rights cases the high court will take up this week.

Oral arguments are expected to begin at 7 a.m. PST and last about an hour. Audio recordings and transcripts of the proceedings would be expedited and available no later than 1 p.m., according to a statement from the court's press office. The Times will publish audio of the arguments as soon as it is available, along with reaction from experts and local residents.

The case marks the first time the high court's justices have directly been faced with the question of whether the U.S. Constitution gives gays and lesbians a right to marry.

FULL COVERAGE: Same-sex marriage ban

California voters in 2008 approved the measure that defined marriage in the state's Constitution as between a man and woman, prompting two same-sex couples to sue in federal court in San Francisco. A federal judge agreed that it violated their rights to liberty and equal treatment.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled more narrowly, saying voters couldn't take marriage rights from gays and lesbians once those rights had been granted. In December, the Supreme Court said it would hear an appeal from Proposition 8 backers, who argued that the court should abide by the decision made by voters.

The case has drawn significant attention, with rallies both in California and across the nation. Several politicians and groups -- including the Obama administration, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and a group of prominent Republicans -- have filed amicus briefs urging the court to strike down Proposition 8.

Several outcomes were possible, ranging from a decision that would make gay marriage legal nationwide to a narrow ruling that would allow it in California but not affect other states. The court could also duck a decision with a procedural ruling on whether the sponsors of Proposition 8 have legal standing to represent the state of California in the case.

The court will probably release its decision in June.

On Wednesday, the justices will again hear arguments pertaining to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and whether it wrongly denies married gay couples equal benefits under federal law.

Local groups have planned events surrounding the week's arguments. In Orange County, a candlelight "vigil for justice" will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana. In Long Beach, city officials will raise an LGBT flag over City Hall Plaza at 9 a.m. Tuesday.


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