News

Judge refuses to order Brown to move to plaintiff's side in Prop. 8 case

Trial to start Jan. 11 on suit filed by 2 same-sex couples

A federal judge in San Francisco has turned down a bid by supporters of California's same-sex marriage ban to move state Attorney General Jerry Brown to the opposing side in an upcoming trial.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said in a ruling that placing Brown on the same side as the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the ban "would benefit neither the parties nor the court."

The ban was enacted by state voters last year as Proposition 8. Walker is scheduled to preside over a trial beginning on Jan. 11 on a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples to challenge the measure.

Walker wrote in the ruling that although Brown has said he thinks the measure violates the federal Constitution, he has also sworn to uphold it so long as it is the law of the state.

The judge said, "The attorney general continues to enforce Proposition 8 and has informed the court he will continue to do so unless and until he is ordered by a court to do otherwise."

Brown, as the chief law enforcement officer of the state, is an official defendant in the lawsuit filed in May by a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank. He has told the court he believes Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, but that he is obligated to enforce it.

In the meantime, the sponsors of Proposition 8 and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, have stepped in to act as defendants.

They asked Walker to order Brown to join the side of the plaintiffs, a process known in legal language as realignment.

But the judge said that since Brown doesn't plan to present any evidence at the trial, "no procedural benefit would result from his realignment."

The trial, expected to last two to three weeks, will be the first to test Proposition 8 against the provisions of the U.S. Constitution. A previous five-year battle in the state court system centered on interpretation of the California Constitution.

The two couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, claim Proposition 8 violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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