No good reason for gay marriage ban, court told

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:26am IST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Same sex weddings would not harm traditional marriages and California voters had no good reasons to ban them, a lawyer said on Wednesday at the end of a six-month trial likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers made their final appeals to District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker. His ruling, expected in a few weeks, is likely to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. If it took the case, the high court's ruling would determine the fate of same sex marriage bans in most U.S. states.

California voters approved the ban in 2008. The case against is being argued by conservative jurist Ted Olson, who served as U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush, and David Boies, his adversary in the 2000 Supreme Court decision that put Bush in the White House.

Allowing same sex marriage would do nothing to prevent heterosexuals from continuing to marry and would in fact heighten the institution's value and reputation, Olson told the court on Wednesday.

"Eliminating invidious restrictions on marriage strengthens the institution of marriage," he said.

Throughout the case, Olson and Boies have argued that the ban on gay marriage discriminates against one segment of the population by denying them the fundamental right to marry.

Earlier this month, Walker presented both sides with a long list of questions, including whether there was a good reason, or rational basis, to maintain marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples.

He interrupted Olson's closing statement, asking whether the debate itself did not prove that there was a good argument to stop gay marriage.

"It has to be a debatable proposition, not that there is debate about the proposition," Olson shot back. Citizens could discriminate in their daily lives but could not put that view into law, he said, arguing that fear and hatred had motivated voters in the 2008 referendum.

Some gay advocates opposed challenging the ban in federal court, fearing that even if they win this round, they are likely to lose in the conservative Supreme Court, setting back their agenda for years.

Opponents of the ban called numerous expert witnesses who argued that same-sex couples who marry grow healthier and wealthier, their children are better off, and that the state benefits from the expanded definition of marriage.

Charles Cooper, the leading lawyer defending the ban, believes allowing gays to marry would make heterosexual men more likely to abandon their wives and children.

"These changes are likely to reduce the willingness of biological parents, especially fathers, to make the commitments and sacrifices necessary to marry, stay married, and play an active role in raising their children," Cooper wrote in a brief ahead answering questions from Walker. (Editing by Alan Elsner)

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