Life + Arts

Another round of same-sex marriage hearings

Earlier this month, the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger began in full swing within a San Francisco courtroom.

Presided over by Judge Vaughn Walker, the case will decide the constitutionality of California’s infamous Proposition 8, which passed by a narrow margin back in 2008.  Given the case’s high profile and the potentially far-reaching implications of its outcome, it should come as no surprise that public interest is high.

Without objection from the prosecution, Judge Walker petitioned a higher court within California for the allowance of TV cameras within the courtroom and permission to put the transmissions on YouTube.  Before a decision could be handed down, however, the U.S. Supreme Court took an unusually proactive stance and reviewed the request itself.

In a hurried 5-4 decision, the high court sided with the defendants of the case who claimed that allowing cameras to be present would do “irreparable harm” to Proposition 8 supporters who would testify during the proceedings, and subject them to “harassment for their views” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for the defendants, at

While the Supreme Court’s ruling puts only a temporary hold on footage of the proceedings, the fact that it intervened at all has parts of the LGBT community flustered.

Opponents of Proposition 8, who have taken to calling their campaign against the law “No H8”, are worried that any decision made on the trial by the liberal Judge Walker will be scrutinized by the conservative dominated Supreme Court when the case inevitably reaches them.

Despite the Supreme Court’s intervention, many still feel confident about the trial for several reasons.  Firstly, the ruling hamstrings the defense’s argument for a mistrial in a case that is rapidly coming apart at the seams as the prosecution summons a legion of expert witnesses and recorded documents that continue to undercut their opponents’ every effort.

Prior to the gag order on televised coverage, a number of the defense’s witnesses threatened to withdraw their testimonies if video coverage was allowed and, despite the ban, they have withdrawn anyway.  Secondly, Justice Kennedy, who was part of the majority in this ruling, has a history of overturning predatory laws that persecute the LGBT community, such as in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) which overthrew sodomy laws, and Romer v. Evans (1996), which overthrew a Colorado amendment that repealed housing and employment protection for gays and lesbians.

For the short term however, the ruling does put a damper on marriage equality by stifling what could bring the question to the forefront of American awareness.

Within Houston alone, many are unaware that the trial is even going on.  “Proposition 8 from California is going to court?  When does that start?” said Bill Hasbot, a Galleria-area gay man, when asked about his thoughts on the trial.

Even more unsettling than simple ignorance is the anger that ferments in the vacuum of information.  Each day, news sources publish varying accounts of court proceedings that fuel speculative outrage on both sides of the aisle.  Regardless of the trial’s outcome, this is not an issue that will be going away any time soon.

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