Report on Prop. 8 Hearing

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The Folks Who Got Married Last Year Will Stay Married.

That, at least, seems a safe bet after watching this morning’s oral arguments in the California Supreme Court.

It was hard to tell from the court’s questions whether Prop 8 itself will be overturned. But the exchange between the justices and the Ken Starr, the attorney defending Prop 8, over the question of whether the approximately 18,000 same-sex couples who married last year should have those marriages invalidated was much, much clearer.

A majority of justices — including Carol Corrigan, who voted against last year’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage — expressed deep skepticism at Starr’s argument that such marriages must be thrown out. It felt like a smackdown, actually.

"Here’s the flinty reality," Corrigan instructed Starr, explaining that the law made such unions legal at the time said, explaining that the law changed. "Aren’t those couples… entitled… to rely on the law as it existed?"

Starr didn’t get very far in answering that question before he was interrupted by other justices. Chief Justice Ron George, author of the original decision, even mocked Starr’s argument about the meaning of Prop 8 by comparing it to President Clinton’s infamous claim, "it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is." Starr was the special prosecutor who investigated Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case.

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