AP News Report:
The case will decide a challenge to California's gay marriage ban that was approved by voters in 2008, and the ruling will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. How the high court rules in the case could set the precedent for whether gay marriage becomes legal nationwide.
"This could be our Brown vs. Board of Education," said former Clinton White House adviser Richard Socarides, referring to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in schools and other public facilities. "Certainly the plaintiffs will tell you they are hoping for a broad ruling that says that any law that treats someone differently because of sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution."
The case marks the first federal trial to examine if the U.S. Constitution permits bans on gay marriages, and the challenge is being bankrolled by a group of liberal Hollywood activists including director Rob Reiner and producer Bruce Cohen.
Presiding over the case is U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, a Republican named to the bench in 1989 by the first President Bush. Walker, who has a reputation as an independent thinker, was randomly assigned the lawsuit, put it on a fast-track to trial and has said he thinks it raises serious civil rights claims. During a pretrial hearing in August, the judge pointedly scolded Schwarzenegger for remaining neutral "on an issue of this magnitude and importance."