Trial set for January in federal court on Prop. 8 constitutionality

City of San Francisco to join suit challenging same-sex marriage ban

A federal judge in San Francisco Wednesday set a January trial date for a challenge to California's ban on same-sex marriage.

Attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies filed a federal lawsuit in May on behalf of a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said Wednesday the trial will begin Jan. 11, and also ruled that the San Francisco City Attorney's Office will be allowed to join the lawsuit on the side of the plaintiffs.

Walker rejected a motion by three gay rights groups to also join the plaintiffs, and denied a motion by the Campaign for California Families

to join the defense in support of Proposition 8.

The groups Our Family Coalition, Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays failed to show that their interests were not already "adequately represented" by the current plaintiffs, and could introduce delays and complications in the case, Walker ruled.

Walker said the Campaign for California Families was not the official sponsor of Proposition 8 and represented "broader interests" than simply upholding the proposition.

Walker ruled that the city and county of San Francisco represented "a somewhat different circumstance" by arguing that the city's financial interests had been "adversely affected by Proposition 8." He said the jurisdiction had "an independent interest" that could add evidence in the case "without materially delaying the proceedings."

Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment approved by 52 percent of California voters in November, overturned a ruling in which the state Supreme Court said in May 2008 that the constitution provides a right to same-sex marriage.

In a separate decision upholding Proposition 8 in May of this year, the state Supreme Court said it is within voters' power to amend the constitution as outlined in the initiative.

The court left in place about 18,000 same-sex marriages that were performed in California before the Nov. 4 election.

Boies and Olson, who argued on opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election, filed the federal lawsuit four days before the California Supreme Court's decision this May.

Charles Cooper, an attorney representing the sponsors of Proposition 8, said Wednesday that "the fundamental issue in this case is whether the people of California have the right to define marriage as they did in Proposition 8," or whether the matter will be decided by the courts.

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