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California Supreme Court to Hear Prop 8 Challenge

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The California Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral arguments March 5 in a legal challenge against Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state.

On Nov. 19 the Court agreed to hear the legal challenges to Proposition 8 and set an expedited schedule. Briefing in the case was completed Jan. 21. The Court must issue its decisions within 90 days of oral argument.

By Jan. 15, 43 friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Court to invalidate Prop 8 were filed, arguing that Proposition 8 drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California’s constitution and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote. Briefs were presented by a full gamut of California’s and the nation’s civil rights organizations and legal scholars, as well as California legislators, local governments, bar associations, business interests, labor unions and religious groups.

In May, 2008, the California Supreme Court held that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians. Proposition 8 would eliminate that fundamental right only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group.

Proposition 8 passed by a 52 percent majority on Nov. 4.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU filed the challenge the day after the election, representing Equality California, whose members include many same-sex couples who married between June 16 and November 4, 2008, and six same-sex couples wanting to marry in California.

The Court also agreed to hear two other challenges filed on the same day: one filed by the City and County of San Francisco (later joined by Santa Clara County, the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and other local governments); and another filed by a private attorney.

Serving as co-counsel on the case with NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU are the Law Office of David C. Codell, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

The case is Strauss et al. v. Horton et al. (#S168047).

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