Federal judge sets January trial date in Prop 8 legal challenge

Proposition 8 Rally

A federal judge on Wednesday set a January 11, 2010 date for the highly anticipated trial in the legal challenge to California’s voter-approved Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage.

The judge, Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court in San Francisco, said arguments would begin then over the fate of Prop 8, which Californians passed in November with 52 percent of the vote, prompting protests across the country.

Supporters of the proposition had hoped to avoid a trial, but both sides said they were eager to get started on the proceedings, expected to showcase expert witnesses on topics ranging from parenting to the relative political influence of gays and lesbians.

With swiftness partly in mind, the judge also barred several advocacy groups from joining the lawsuit, and called the case “a matter of huge importance for the people of this state” and indicated he would not tolerate legal maneuvers that could delay its resolution.

Previously, three gay rights groups had petitioned to join the plaintiffs’ side. (See related post.) Judge Walker denied their requests, saying the groups had failed to show that the attorneys already involved in the case would not adequately represent their interests.

Although many of the same-sex marriage organizations and activists involved in that state lawsuit were ready to turn their attention toward a 2010 or 2012 ballot measure to overturn Proposition 8, attorneys  Theodore Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and famed lawyer David Boies, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two gay couples denied marriage licenses.

The suit, filed just days before the California Supreme Court upheld the ban, seeks to invalidate Proposition 8 as a violation of equal-protection rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

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