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Gay marriage trial begins with tough questions for both sides

Opening arguments began Monday in what could be a landmark trial for gay marriage. The case, which challenges California's ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, could go to the US Supreme Court.

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Supporters of gay marriage rally outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco, California Monday.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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The federal trial challenging California’s gay marriage ban opened Monday, setting the stage for a legal battle over the meaning of marriage and whether or not limiting it to heterosexual couples amounts to unconstitutional discrimination.

Two same-sex couples filed suit over Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved initiative that defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman, on the grounds that it violates their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law.

The trial, which is the first federal case questioning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, is expected to eventually make its way to the US Supreme Court for what could amount to a landmark decision on gay marriage. In all, voters in 31 states have passed bans on gay marriage.

Because of the intense nationwide interest in the case, last week Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed to allow it to be streamed online on a delayed basis. The US Supreme Court, however, intervened Monday and said it would give the matter more consideration before allowing the case to be recorded and available on the court's website.

The Supreme Court said it would rule on the matter by Wednesday.

Opening arguments

The trial began Monday with opening arguments.

Theodore Olson, a litigator best known for representing George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election, is one of the lead attorneys representing the couples. He argued that closing the institution of marriage to gay and lesbian couples “classifies people into different categories” and “inflicts a badge of inferiority” on them.

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