The final witness in the federal court battle over California’s voter-approved marriage definition finished giving his testimony Wednesday, but the closing arguments and the final ruling are still weeks away.
David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, was the second of two witnesses called up to the stand by defenders of California’s Proposition 8 – far less than the 12 called up by the plaintiffs’ side.
According to reports, at least four of defense witnesses had decided not to testify when there was a possibility that the video recording of the trial would be later posted on YouTube. The defense had petitioned against a broadcast of the trial – even a delayed one – saying the move could put the defense's witnesses at further risk, as some of the California amendment's supporters have already been harassed for their defense of it.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled against video streaming the high-profile federal court trial, the still-present possibility of the trial recordings hitting the web was enough to convince more than half of the witnesses to pull out, including an expert on "what universally constitutes marriage" and an expert on religious attitudes toward Proposition 8.
Notably, however, on the seventh day of the trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs showed in court the videotaped depositions of aforementioned experts, who the defense had pulled from the trial the evening before in response to their concerns for safety.
The depositions were shown by the Prop 8 opponents because they supposedly revealed weaknesses in arguments about the social damage of same-sex marriage.
Despite having only two witnesses, the defense have been attempting to make their case through their lengthy cross-examinations of the plaintiffs’ witnesses since the trial opened on Jan. 11.
And this past week, through the testimonies of their own, the defense tried to emphasize how the LGBT community is not a class of people in need of special protection from Californians as they have supporters at every level of the government and have proved that they can effectively bring about change through the political process.
“Gay and lesbian interests are well-represented, can get anything they like passed through the Legislature, raise millions and millions of dollars," said first defense witness Kenneth Miller of Claremont McKenna College after noting how the “No on 8” campaign raised $43 million to defeat Prop 8 - $3.4 million more than those who supported the measure.
“You just can't with a straight face say gays and lesbians are a politically weak minority in California,” he added.
Following Miller, marriage expert Blankenhorn took to the stand, claiming that marriage is more than a private relationship between two adults and that allowing same-sex marriage would lead to the erosion of marriage.
Marriage, he said, is “our society's most pro-child institution.”
So while he conceded that there are rights and needs of same-sex couples, the self-described liberal democrat highlighted the collective rights and needs of children worldwide as a priority.
Furthermore, he said the case of Perry vs. Schwarzenegger is not a battle between good and bad, but rather a “conflict of goods.”
Same-sex couples have the right to equal respect; the right to form loving, stable partnerships and families; and the need for greater social acceptance, Blankenhorn acknowledged having stated. But children have the right to know and be loved by a mother and a father.
And there is a “need for as many children as possible to grow up under a strong shelter of marriage, our society's most pro-child institution,” he added.
Following Wednesday’s wrap up, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs and defense both have until Feb. 26 to file post-trial documents and that applications to file amicus briefs would be accepted until Feb. 3.
On Feb. 26, Walker will call both sides to meet to arrange the dates for closing arguments to be delivered.
Regardless of how Walker rules, the decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could end up determining whether gay Americans have a right to marry.
Prop 8, which was passed by California voters in 2008 by a 52 percent vote, effectively defined marriage in the state’s constitution as the union of one man and one woman. The trial in San Francisco seeks to determine whether gay marriage is a constitutional right and, in effect, whether the passing of Prop 8 violates that right.