This time, it's a federal case.
A historic trial over California's Proposition 8 starts today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, promising to feature clashing witness testimony over equal rights, the meaning of bigotry and the purpose of marriage.
The outcome could affect not only California but also the broader national question of equal rights for gays and whether their federal constitutional rights supersede a state's right to ban same-sex marriage.
Gay couples are challenging Proposition 8, which California voters approved in November 2008, saying it violates their basic individual federal rights to equal protection.
Voters, they say, can't act to deprive others of constitutional rights.
"What's at stake in this trial is whether the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection and ensuring rights for minorities will stand, or if voters can take rights away," said Geoff Kors, whose gay rights group Equality California backs the Proposition 8 challenge.
Opponents will defend voters' right to weigh in, and offer support for their position.
"What's at stake is the voters' right to amend their constitution," said Andrew Pugno, a Folsom attorney who will defend Proposition 8.
To "disprove that voters were not irrational" when they passed Proposition 8, Pugno said, "we're going to talk about the special need of children to be raised by their biological parents, as often as possible.
"The public has a fundamental interest," he said, "in the government steering procreation into households of a mother and father."
Federal law established by court decisions does not spell out equal rights for gays as clearly as it does for people based on race and gender.
Gay rights advocates hope this trial helps change that.
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