Filed under: Background
By Matt Baume
Prop 8′s back in court — but why, exactly? I’ll answer all your questions about what’s going on this time. Plus, the backstory behind the most effective — and adorable — marriage equality video ever made. Prop 8′s legal team celebrates a bill in Nigeria that would throw you in prison for over a decade just for witnessing a gay couple getting married. All that, plus robot marriage, and one gay couple looks back on their 50-year romance in a new book.
Whenever I tell people that I report on the Prop 8 trial, they always respond the same way: “oh yeah, what’s going on with that?” Understandable, since it’s been a really complicated case. Our next hearing is on Thursday of this week, so let’s take some time to clear up exactly what’s happened, what’s going on, and what you can expect on Thursday.
We started with our plaintiffs, Sandy and Kris and Jeff and Paul, in District Court in 2009.
And we won in August of 2010.
Then the Proponents appealed to the Ninth Circuit and we had oral arguments in December of 2010.
And that’s when the case got complicated. Three new questions came up about whether the Proponents had standing, whether we could release the videotapes of the trial, and whether our District Court win needed to be vacated after the Judge disclosed that he was gay.
The standing question went to the California Supreme Court. The other two questions went back to the District Court.
It took most of 2011, but we finally got decisions on all three questions, and now those issues are all going back to the Ninth Circuit.
So the Ninth Circuit will have to rule on all of those issues, either in one big ruling or a couple of small ones…
…the merits of the appeal. Our next hearing is happening December 8 at 2:30pm, and we’ll be discussing the issues of video and the motion to vacate.
Then at some point after that, we’ll get a ruling (or rulings) from the 9th Circuit. There’s no timeframe for them to rule, but they don’t usually take too long so a good guess would be early in 2012.
And then that ruling might go to the US Supreme Court. Or it could get appealed again to the Ninth Circuit for a do-over called an “en banc review.”
For an en banc review to happen, one party would have to petition for it. Then the judges would vote on whether to re-hear the case. And then, finally, they’d issue a new ruling. It’s impossible to estimate a timeframe for this, but if it happened, the hearing might be sometime in mid-2012, with a decision later that year or possibly early 2013.
Whether or not the en banc review happens, the case is likely to go to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case. Or they could accept it, in which case they’d have oral arguments and then issue a decision. Oral arguments happen from October to June, so our case could possibly be heard during the October 2012 term. And then we’ll be done, and if the judges rule the way AFER believes they’ll rule, we’ll have full federal marriage equality for every gay and lesbian couple in the country.
So that’s the latest with Prop 8. Adam and Jacob will be covering it here on Prop8TrialTracker.com live and we’ll also be live-tweeting from @AFER.
Meanwhile, America’s not the only country on the cusp of marriage equality. Australian organizers released a wildly popular ad last month, featuring a montage of a gay couple’s courtship, to encourage legislators to recognize marriage equality nation-wide. The ad ends with a proposal — but will the couple actually be able to marry, or will they have to settle for a civil union? Right now, the answer to that question for all Australian LGBTs comes down to one woman: Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Gillard is the one roadblock to the Australian Labor Party’s efforts to add marriage equality to the party platform. For now, it looks like pro-equality legislators have the votes needed to amend the party platform, but it remains to be seen whether Gillard still has some tricks up her sleeve to undermine their efforts. Visit Getup.org.au for the latest and to find out how you can get involved, no matter where you are in the world.
In Nigeria this week, the Senate approved a bill that imposes draconian penalties for any activity that might affirm LGBTs, including marriage. Under the bill, attempted marriage is punishable with a 14-year jail term, or 10 years simply for being present at the ceremony. The Alliance Defense Fund, which is defending Prop 8 in court, reported the news from Nigeria with the headline, “Citizens Celebrate Ban of Same-Sex Marriage.”
And in Maryland this week, an anti-gay coalition kicked off a campaign for a constitutional ban on marriage. The organization is led by Robert Broadus, who had this to say about marriage equality earlier this year:
“The technology already exists … what’s to stop a man from marrying a robot, what’s to stop a woman from marrying a computer?”
For more on the romantic implications of the Three Laws of Robotics, visit the science fiction section of your local library.
And finally this week, an interview with Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, authors of the new book “Double Life.” Alan and Norman met in New York in the 1950s, and as their fascinating work took them form performing on Broadway to running a television studio to a new career in painting, they’ve built a life together as the country’s attitudes toward gay couples transformed dramatically over the decades.
I spoke with Alan and Norman about what it was like to be a gay couple in the 50s, and how it’s changed. You can see the entire 20-minute interview at AFER’s YouTube channel, at youtube.com/americanequalrights. Here are some highlights of our conversation below the fold.
By Adam Bink
Monday, June 13th will be the day of the big Prop 8 hearing, convened by Chief Judge James Ware, on whether Judge Walker’s decision should be overturned because of his sexual orientation and what to do with the video recordings. As our namesake indicates, you can bet we’ll be the best place on the web for coverage. A preview of coming attractions:
- The hearing will commence this Monday, June 13th at 9 AM PST in San Francisco at the Philip Burton courthouse. A ruling is not expected on the same day. Courage’s founder and chair Rick Jacobs, who blogged from the trial in January 2010, will be sending in dispatches from the courthouse, as will Arisha Michelle Hatch, our lawyer-cum-national field director. Courage’s new communications manager Ana Beatriz Cholo will also be in attendance, so we’ll have a lot of dispatches coming in. I know a lot of you will also be there — if you have photos and video to send in, send it to prop8trial AT couragecampaign DOT org and I’ll look forward to getting it up. And of course, comment away!
- Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the lead attorney on the original In re marriage cases of 2008 that led to equal marriage for same-sex couples before Prop 8, will be blogging here on the hearing, legal observations and what happens next. NCLR’s Chris Stoll, who along with Shannon did us the courtesy of answering lots of questions not once, but twice, will also be stopping by to provide his legal expertise. If you’re new or want to re-read the transcript full of legal Q’s and A’s, here’s the first one from August 23rd and the second from January 4th.
- I also invited Roland Palencia, incoming Executive Director of Equality California, to stop by and provide his observations. As has been extensively covered and debated by many here on the blog and in the comments, EQCA is considering going back to the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in 2012.
- Brian Leubitz of Calitics.com, who along with his husband have provided legal interpretation of the Prop 8 rulings, briefs, motions and other important legal movements, will also be providing his take on what happened and what’s next.
- Last but not least, Rick and Arisha will be blogging here after the hearings with their thoughts on how the day went.
- Finally, I will be tweeting from @equalityontrial and my own account @adamjbink during the trial, and Courage’s Ana Beatriz Cholo will be sending in photos, tweeting from @couragecampaign and @anaperiodista and posting updates on Facebook. So if you’re away from a computer or aren’t up for reloading the page a lot, you can follow updates on Twitter by following those accounts.
Looking forward to a busy and fun day here at P8TT. Who else will be there?