The federal trial over the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 began yesterday with an opening statement by attorney Theodore Olson, who with David Boies is leading the legal team assembled by the American Foundation for Equal Rights to litigate the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Opening statements will be followed by testimony from Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who comprise two couples who wish to be married but who were denied marriage licenses because of Proposition 8.
Below are some of Ted Olson's comments. You can click here to read the statement in its entirety.
This case is about marriage and equality. Plaintiffs are being denied both the right to marry, and the right to equality under the law.
The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;” a “basic civil right;” a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.
In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is “the most important relation in life,” and “of fundamental importance for all individuals.”
As the witnesses in this case will elaborate, marriage is central to life in America. It promotes mental, physical and emotional health and the economic strength and stability of those who enter into a marital union. It is the building block of family, neighborhood and community. The California Supreme Court has declared that the right to marry is of “central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society.”
Proposition 8 ended the dream of marriage, the most important relation in life, for the plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of Californians.
In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court concluded that under this State’s Constitution, the right to marry a person of one’s choice extended to all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, and was available equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
In November of 2008, the voters of California responded to that decision with Proposition 8, amending the State’s Constitution and, on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, slammed the door to marriage to gay and lesbian citizens.
The plaintiffs are two loving couples, American citizens, entitled to equality and due process under our Constitution. They are in deeply committed, intimate, and longstanding relationships. They want to marry the person they love; to enter into that “most important relation in life”; to share their dreams with their partners; and to confer the many benefits of marriage on their families.
But Proposition 8 singled out gay men and lesbians as a class, swept away their right to marry, pronounced them unequal, and declared their relationships inferior and less-deserving of respect and dignity.
In the words of the California Supreme Court, eliminating the right of individuals to marry a same-sex partner relegated those individuals to “second class” citizenship, and told them, their families and their neighbors that their love and desire for a sanctioned marital partnership was not worthy of recognition.
During this trial, Plaintiffs and leading experts in the fields of history, psychology, economics and political science will prove three fundamental points:
First – Marriage is vitally important in American society.
Second – By denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry, Proposition 8 works a grievous harm on the plaintiffs and other gay men and lesbians throughout California, and adds yet another chapter to the long history of discrimination they have suffered.
Third – Proposition 8 perpetrates this irreparable, immeasurable, discriminatory harm for no good reason.
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