California's gay marriage battle
All eyes are on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today. A three-judge panel heard the latest arguments in the gay marriage debate.
Randomly selected panel of judges has a liberal appointed by President Carter, a President George W. Bush-appointed conservative, and President Clinton-appointed moderate who could be the swing vote in this case.
The district court ruling that declared Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional is in black and white but it isn't set in stone. Today, gay marriage supporters and opponents aruged the shades of gray.
In August, District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, which would have cleared the path for same sex marriages to resume but Prop 8 supporters appealed.
That brings us to today.
Before either side could get to the constitutionality of Prop 8, gay marriage opponents had to convince the 9th Circuit panel they have even have the right to appeal.
Judge Randy Smith says "we have an attorney general and a gov with no ability to nullify acts of fhe people and then by just not appealinig they do it."
David Boies, attorney for the opponents of Prop 8, says "they do not appeal a federal district court decision after a trial finding that it is unconstituational."
The 2nd half of the hearing dealt with the heart of the debate. Is a ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.
Charles Cooper, lawyer for appellants, says "if you redefine the institution, if you re-define the word, you change the institution... you can't separate the two."
Ted Olson, the attorney for the opponents of Prop. 8, says "the US supreme court has determined intimate personal contact is protected. Marriage is fundamental right, how can right be taken away because of constitutionally protected activity?"
This 9th circuit panel is expected to take at least a month likely longer to make its decision. Most legal experts agree gay marriage will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.