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Guide: The Federal Prop 8 Trial

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The Day of Decision Protest in Hollywood on May 26, 2009 (more photos here) | Photo by Tom Andrews/LAist

It's January 11th, 8:30 a.m. and the historic case challenging Proposition 8 is just beginning in San Francisco with opening statements followed by testimony from the plaintiffs, who are two couples that were denied marriage licenses because of Proposition 8. A lot has happened since same-sex marriage was legalized in California back on May 15, 2008; so let's recap and dive into the case.

What is Prop 8?
Prop 8 was the California ballot initiative in November of 2008 that banned same-sex marriage, subsequent to a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing the marriages earlier that year on May 15th. One month later on June 16th, the first of 18,000 gay couples were able to tie the knot.

What happened after Prop 8 became law?
Counties immediately stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but 18,000 couples were already married, leaving them in a murky grey area. Challenged on the validity of Prop 8, the state Supreme Court in May of 2009 (aka the "Day of Decision") ruled that the Prop was legal, based on the state's constitution, and that the already-married couples would remain married (but if they divorced, they could not re-marry).

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What is today's case about?
The federal trial is about the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, which in part takes into account how it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, which says that "no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws."