Filed under: Press
Cross-posted from LGBTPOV.
By Karen Ocamb
Lead attorney Ted Boutrous (pictured) told reporters that the US Supreme Court has already held in 14 cases that “marriage is a fundamental right of all persons and it’s a fundamental relationship – the most important relationship in life.” He said when you put cases such as Loving v Virginia (right to marry), Lawrence v. Texas (individual liberty), and Evans v Romer (equal protection) together with the marriage cases, “the law is overwhelmingly on our side.”
Boutrous said that the Prop 8 proponents failed to provide any factual evidence at trial. “Their arguments got narrower and narrower once their lawyer admitted he did not know what harm would occur as a result of same sex couples getting married.” Additionally, he said, the Prop 8 proponents “really distorted” what happened at the trial in their brief.
Last Thursday, Oct. 14, UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky expressed concern in a conference call sponsored by Equality California that a new governor or attorney general would decide to defend Prop 8 – as Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley have promised to do, if elected. The noted law professor said a court might feel the case needs a defendant with standing if the Defendant-Interveners are found to lack standing to appeal Judge Walker’s ruling. At the very least, their friend-of- the-court briefs could influence the final ruling.
But Boutrous said the plaintiffs’ team is not concern – “whatsoever.”
“First, I’m not sure procedurally they could do it. But we’re not afraid of anyone’s arguments and anyone getting their views across in this case because we think we’re right on the law and we’re right on the facts. We think if there is a new attorney general and a new governor and they express their views, we’ll address it and deal with it. But that doesn’t concern us at all.”
The Ninth Circuit will hear oral arguments in December.
UPDATE BY EDEN: More from Lisa Leff at the Associated Press:
In a brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Monday, the attorneys for the couples who successfully sued to strike down Proposition 8 countered arguments that Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco conducted a one-sided trial.
They say the evidence was overwhelmingly in their favor because lawyers for the voter-approved measure’s sponsors decided to call only two witnesses compared with the plaintiffs’ 17, and they failed to provide credible studies or convincing corroboration for their claim that marriage should be limited to a man and woman to promote responsible childbearing.
Those proponents “now attempt to fill the evidentiary void they left in the district court with an avalanche of non-record citations, distortions and misstatements regarding the proceedings below, and baseless attacks on the good faith of the district court,” the couples’ lawyers said. “The tactic is unfortunate, unbecoming and unavailing.”
By Eden James
A few minutes ago, the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed its response brief to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just before the midnight deadline.
Kathleen, as usual, has Scribd the document for the P8TT community:
AFER has also posted the brief on its web site at:
Here is the press statement from AFER that accompanied the brief:
OCTOBER 18, 2010 — The plaintiffs in the landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case that overturned Proposition 8 filed their brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today, reiterating the clear unconstitutionality of the initiative that led to its being struck down by a federal district court after an exhaustive trial comprising overwhelming legal arguments, expert witnesses and first-hand testimony.
“Fourteen times the Supreme Court has stated that marriage is a fundamental right of all individuals. This case tests the proposition whether the gay and lesbian Americans among us should be counted as ‘persons’ under the 14th Amendment, or whether they constitute a permanent underclass ineligible for protection under that cornerstone of our Constitution,” attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies wrote in their filing.
“Our Constitution requires the government to treat every American equally under the law,” said Chad Griffin, the Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Only full federal marriage equality would fulfill the requirements of our Constitution. That is why we are pressing this case through the Supreme Court.”
I’m sure Trial Trackers will enjoy digesting this document tonight and in the morning. Please let us know what you think in the comments!
UPDATE: Here is the full introduction to the main case brief, as just posted on AFER’s web site:
This case is about marriage, “the most important relation in life,” Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978), and equality, the most bedrock principle of the American dream, from the Declaration of Independence, to the Gettysburg Address, to the Fourteenth Amendment.
Fourteen times the Supreme Court has stated that marriage is a fundamental right of all individuals. This case tests the proposition whether the gay and lesbian Americans among us should be counted as “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment, or whether they constitute a permanent underclass ineligible for protection under that cornerstone of our Constitution.
The unmistakable, undeniable purpose and effect of Proposition 8 is to select gay men and lesbians—and them alone—and enshrine in California’s Constitution that they are different, that their loving and committed relationships are ineligible for the designation “marriage,” and that they are unworthy of that “most important relation in life.” After an expensive, demeaning campaign in which voters were constantly warned to vote “Yes on 8” to “protect our children”—principally from the notion that gay men and lesbians were persons entitled to equal dignity and respect—Proposition 8 passed with a 52% majority and Proponents’ stigmatization of gay and lesbian relationships as distinctly second-class thus became the official constitutional position of the State of California.
Class-based balkanization and stigmatization of our citizens is flatly incompatible with our constitutional ideals. “[T]he Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’” Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 623 (1996) (quoting Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting)). The tragic time has long-passed when our government could target our gay and lesbian citizens for discriminatory, disfavored treatment—even imprisonment—because those in power deemed gay relationships deviant, immoral, or distasteful. Proponents’ own expert acknowledged that the principle of “equal human dignity must apply to gay and lesbian persons.” SER 287. “In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” Plessy, 163 U.S. at 559 (Harlan, J., dissenting).
Thus, the Constitution now fully embraces the truth that, no less than heterosexual persons, “[p]ersons in a homosexual relationship” enjoy the “constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage.” Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 574 (2003). The district court readily and correctly recognized that Proposition 8 and its demeaning of the personal autonomy of gay men and lesbians with respect to marriage was of a piece with the anti-miscegenation statutes struck down years ago in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). And just as the Supreme Court properly vindicated those foundational principles of freedom and equality in Loving, so, too, does the decision of the district court invalidating Proposition 8 make this nation, in the words of Proponents’ expert, “more American . . . than we were on the day before.” SER 287.
From the very first sentence of their opening brief, Proponents make clear that their case hinges upon application of a version of rational basis review that a court might apply to everyday economic legislation. Under this type of rational basis review, Proponents contend, a state may “draw a line around” its gay and lesbian citizens and exclude them from the entire panoply of state benefits, services, and privileges so long as one can imagine a conceivable set of facts that would justify providing those benefits to heterosexual persons.
Application of Proponents’ version of rational basis review to Proposition 8 would be profoundly unjust and absolutely incompatible with our Nation’s tradition of equality as articulated in numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. Categorical exclusions from “the most important relation in life” cannot possibly be equated with zoning or economic regulations that adjust in nice gradations the economic benefits and burdens of life in American society. And a person’s sexual orientation is not a species of conduct that may readily be adjusted to conform to the government’s changing priorities; the court below, based on ample expert analysis, found that a gay man or lesbian cannot simply choose to be attracted to the opposite sex and thereby avoid the sting of Proposition 8, to say nothing of the other acts of discrimination and violence frequently directed at gay and lesbian persons. Heightened scrutiny thus properly applies to laws targeting persons based on their sexual orientation and gender, just as it does to laws classifying persons on the basis of race, ancestry, sex, illegitimacy, alienage, and religion.
Even under Proponents’ preferred standard of review, however, Proposition 8 fails. There is no legitimate interest that is even remotely furthered by Proposition 8’s arbitrary exclusion of gay men and lesbians from the institution of marriage. Indeed, Proponents can offer nothing but unproven assertions and tautologies.
Proponents argue that stripping gay men and lesbians of their right to marry advances governmental interests in “responsible procreation” and preventing the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage—two phrases that, tellingly, the Yes on 8 campaign never saw fit to urge upon California voters. To determine whether these rationales and others proffered from time to time by Proponents legitimately could justify Proposition 8, the district court held a trial at which it considered evidence and expert testimony. Plaintiffs presented 17 witnesses, including nine leading experts in history, political science, psychology, and economics, and hundreds of trial exhibits, including more than 250 exhibits related to messages transmitted to voters as part of the Proposition 8 campaign.
Proponents, on the other hand, denounced from the start the notion that their assertions might be subjected to adversarial testing, resisting the very idea of a trial, and ultimately insisted their assertions did not need to be supported by any evidence whatsoever. In the end, they presented just two witnesses, including a supposed expert on marriage who derived the substance of his opinions concerning the harms same-sex marriage might cause to “traditional” marriage from a “thought experiment” in which he essentially did little more than chronicle the responses provided by an unscientifically selected audience. ER 81. When asked by the district court to identify what harms would befall opposite-sex married couples if gay and lesbian couples could marry, Proponents’ counsel candidly acknowledged, “I don’t know.” ER 44.
Based on that factual record—undoubtedly the most detailed ever assembled in a case challenging legislation targeting gay and lesbian persons—the district court issued a 136-page opinion that meticulously examined each of the parties’ factual assertions and the evidence supporting those assertions. The district court found that “Proponents’ evidentiary presentation was dwarfed by that of plaintiffs,” and concluded that Proponents “failed to build a credible factual record to support their claim that Proposition 8 served a legitimate government interest.” ER 46. In light of Proponents’ inability to identify a single legitimate interest furthered by Proposition 8, the court concluded that, under any standard, Proposition 8 violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Proponents and their amici now attempt to fill the evidentiary void they left in the district court with an avalanche of non-record citations, distortions and misstatements regarding the proceedings below, and baseless attacks on the good faith of the district court. The tactic is unfortunate, unbecoming and unavailing. The governmental interests Proponents assert have been affirmatively disavowed by California, or have no basis in reality, or both. The fact is, as the testimony of 19 witnesses and 900 trial exhibits introduced into evidence amply demonstrates, there is no good reason—indeed, not even a rational basis—for California to exclude gay men and lesbians from the institution of civil marriage, the most important relation in life.
The district court’s judgment is predicated squarely on the fundamental principles established by the Supreme Court in Loving and its other decisions explaining the constitutional meaning of marriage, as well the Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Romer, which together make clear that Proposition 8 flatly violates the constitutional commands of due process and equal protection of the laws. That judgment—and the injunction against the enforcement of Proposition 8 that necessarily must follow—should be affirmed.
UPDATE: AFER also filed a brief in the case of the appeal filed by Imperial County. Check it out (h/t Kathleen):
By Eden James
The defendant-intervenors filed their written arguments to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shortly after 9 p.m. PST — just 3 hours before the court’s deadline. We will be posting it here ASAP.
According to Lisa Leff at the Associated Press, it targets Judge Vaughn Walker for being “egregiously selective and one-sided.” More to come.
UPDATE: Here it is (h/t to both Kathleen, in this thread, and Ann S. in the previous thread, where the news broke almost immediately in the comments):
More from the Associated Press:
In written arguments to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the ban’s sponsors alleged that Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker “quite willfully” disregarded a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court precedent and other relevant information when he decided the voter-approved measure was an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians’ civil rights.
“The district court based its findings almost exclusively on an uncritical acceptance of the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs’ experts, and simply ignored virtually everything — judicial authority, the works of eminent scholars past and present in all relevant academic fields, extensive historical and documentary evidence — that ran counter to its conclusions,” they wrote in their 134-page opening brief.
UPDATE: Trial Trackers are quickly digesting the document and posting their thoughts in the comments. Below are some of the best comments posted so far.
I’ve just read the Proponents brief. The problem I think that they have is the cursory treatment given to Lawrence v Texas, and to a lesser extent, Romer v Evans, which cases have so changed the landscape regaring the classification of lesbian and gay people, to the extent that Baker v Nelson is unlikely any longer to be good law. Whilst Lawrence specifically did not mandate recognition of gay marriage, which it could not and was not required to do, since the subject matter under discussion was a Texas criminal statute, it did not foreclose such a finding in future cases. It merely left that argument to be made in future cases. Lawrence did not apply standard rational review. It applied some higher level of scrutiny, whether rational review with bite or intermediate scrutiny. Thus the Propents complaints on rational basis review are probably nothing to the point.
The brief is noticeably silent on Justice Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence too, where he asserted, rightly, that if moral approbation was not an acceptable basis upon which to legislate against lesbians and gays as a class, then same sex marriage could not be prevented either, because procreation was not and never has been a requirement for marriage.
Justice Ginsberg’s recent note in Christian Legal Soc v Martinez that the USSC”s recent jurisprudence does not distinguish between behaviour and status as regards lesbians and gays also goes unmentioned.
“Lightning Baltimore” posted this gem of a quote from page 33 of the brief:
The State, it follows, “has no obligation to produce evidence to sustain the rationality of” its laws. Heller, 509 U.S. at 320 (emphasis added). To the contrary, the State’s “legislative choice is not subject to courtroom factfinding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data.”
Here is Kathleen Perrin’s response to the above quote:
It’s true that it can be based on rational speculation…. but the key word here is “rational.”
IF the standard of review is only “rational basis”, then the court can actually come up with its own rationale for the law, even if the parties have not presented one. However, neither the Proponents nor Walker could come up with any justification for the law that was “rationally related” to a “legitimate” government interest.
They wrote: “The trial proceedings were skewed from the outset, given that four of Proponents’ expert witnesses refused to testify…”
Basically they are claiming that the fact that the judge videotaped the proceedings EVEN THOUGH NOT FOR BROADCAST scared away the experts. And THAT is why they had no evidence! The fact that they were unable to explain properly to their own witnesses that this was for court records, not broadcast is why this should be overturned.
This leaves me somewhat speechless. I think that Olson and Boies must be laughing their asses off somewhere right now, as they read this.
UPDATE (h/t to Kathleen): Imperial County just filed their brief on the standing issue:
Finally, AFER released the following statement shortly after the Prop 8 legal team filed their brief earlier tonight:
OFFICIAL PROP. 8 PLAINTIFFS’ STATEMENT ON TODAY’S 9th CIRCUIT FILING
Statement from Chad Griffin, Board President, American Foundation for Equal Rights
“Regardless of the defendant-intervenors’ protests, the fact remains that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, as was proven conclusively and unequivocally through a full federal trial. There is no getting around the fact that the court’s decision was based on our nation’s most fundamental principles, and that the Constitution does not permit unequal treatment under the law,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “We are eager to proceed with affirming the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8, and the equality of all Americans, in the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court.”
The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sole sponsor of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case. After bringing together Theodore Olson and David Boies to lead its legal team, the Foundation successfully advanced the Perry case through Federal District Court and is now leading it through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before the case is brought to the United States Supreme Court.