Live From the California Supreme Court Hearing (With Handy Viewing Guide)


Hey hey! It’s your special day, gays and lesbians, as the California Supreme Court listens to arguments on whether to overturn Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state of California only months after that same court declared marriage “an inalienable right”. Crowds are gathered outside the courthouse in San Francisco to watch the hearing, but for the rest of you, stick around as we use this space throughout the day to give you live updates, Twitter feeds, video and interviews about the biggest constitutional case over gay marriage this country has ever seen.

PLUS: Meet the justices deciding the case

If you’re just tuning in, here’s our easy breakdown of today’s hearing:

What is the California Supreme Court hearing about?

In a nutshell, it’s about the legal validity of Proposition 8, a ballot-initiative that outlawed gay marriage. Opponents of the proposition (that would be you and me) sued the state, saying that the Prop. is illegal. However, nobody from the state will actually be arguing that it is legal, since Attorney General Jerry Brown sides with the gays. Instead, it’ll be left to Kenneth Starr, who represents the Yes on 8 supporters, to make the case.

But what are they deciding?

Three questions are before the court:

  • Does Proposition 8 constitute an amendment or a revision of the Constitution?
  • Does Proposition 8 violate “Separation of Powers”?
  • If Prop 8. stands, what to do with all the people already married?

So, will we know the answer today?

Yes and no. The Court has 90 days to make its final ruling, but in most cases like this, the Court will have already come up with a remedy and it’ll be pretty obvious what that is by the kinds of questions they ask and how they react to the arguments.

Who’s going to win?

If we knew the question to that, we’d be doing something more lucrative than blogging. The simple fact is, there’s no way to tell what this court will do. In general, the California Supreme Court has a long history of affirming minority rights, as it did last year when it framed gay marriage as an intrinsic right. But at the same time, there’s essentially no case law that supports them overturning Prop. 8.

It’s really not an easy answer. The justices don’t live in a bubble and they’re acutely aware that all eyes are focused on them. After making a landmark ruling in support of civil rights, they’re not going to be thrilled to make a ruling that would essentially affirm the rights of the majority to overrule the minority. Then again, there’s that whole recall thing: overturning Prop. 8 would probably cost them their jobs.

If I wanted a nuanced answer, I could read a newspaper. I came to get bloggariffic simplicity, dude.

If you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I would say that the court will probably do something unexpected that will satisfy neither party. My crazy blogger guess is that they will uphold Proposition 8, but rule that the state can not issue marriage licenses to one class of people and not to another and therefore direct the state legislature to create civil unions and put the state out of the marriage licensing business altogether, leaving it a purely religious designation. I particularly like this option because I will be ale to post the headline, “California Court Outlaws Straight Marriage.”

When is all this happening?

The hearing begins at 9AM PST. You can try to watch it here, or if you’re a California resident, on the California Channel. For the rest of you, we have the video feed right here:

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