* Ruling expected in weeks
* District court ruling sure to be appealed
* Judge asks if gays deserve special protection
* If Supreme Court takes case, could be landmark
(Adds closing from Prop 8 lawyer, judge questions)
By Peter Henderson
SAN FRANCISCO, June 16 A six-month trial on
whether to overturn a California ban on gay marriage ended
dramatically on Wednesday when a lawyer defending the
prohibition said he did not need evidence to prove the purpose
The case is likely headed for the U.S. Supreme Court no
matter how District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker rules on
California's gay marriage ban. A decision there could determine
the fate of same-sex marriage in the United States for years.
California voters approved the ban known as Prop 8 in 2008,
dismaying gay advocates and their allies who had hoped the
trend-setting state would side with them.
However U.S. voters in state referendums across the nation
have consistently opposed same-sex marriage. It is legal in
only five states and the District of Columbia due to court and
Arguing for the ban to be reversed was conservative jurist
Ted Olson, who served as U.S. solicitor general under former
President George W. Bush. He partnered with David Boies, his
adversary in the 2000 Supreme Court decision that put Bush in
the White House.
Throughout the case, Olson and Boies argued that the ban
discriminated against one segment of the population by denying
them the fundamental right to marry and that same sex marriage
was no threat to heterosexuals.
PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE
Conservative Charles Cooper led the defense, arguing that
it is reasonable to fear that allowing same-sex marriage would
undermine heterosexual marriage and self-evident that the
purpose of marriage was procreating and raising children.
"You don't have to have evidence" to prove that the purpose
of marriage is to bear and raise children, he said in the
closing arguments, citing legal precedents.
Months earlier, he had surprised the court by saying he did
not know how gay marriage would hurt heterosexuals -- and that
he did not need to know in order to win the case.
"At the end of the day, 'I don't know' and 'I don't have to
present any evidence,' with all respect to Mr. Cooper, doesn't
cut it," responded Olson on Wednesday.
Walker subjected Cooper to a barrage of questions, turning
the lawyer's closing arguments into a cross-examination about
the purpose of marriage, the state's role, and whether gays
deserve special court protection akin to racial minorities.
Cooper contended that the only way to invalidate Prop 8 was
to prove there had been absolutely no good reason, or rational
basis, for millions of Californians to back it.
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.
Walker seemed uncertain whether the nation was ready for
such change, alluding to the decades of division sparked by the
Supreme Court pro-abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.
Opponents of the same-sex marriage ban compare it to laws
which outlawed interracial marriage in some state. Walker noted
that the high court ruled on that questions only after many
states began reversing their bans.
"Why are we not at that same tipping point here with
respect to same-sex marriage?" he asked.
Proponents and opponents of Prop 8 spent a combined $84
million to sway voters, making it one of the most expensive
ballot in U.S. history. It passed by 52.5 percent to 47.5
percent. Olson said its passage ultimately was based on fear.
But the judge, who is expected to rule in a few weeks,
pressed Olson whether he should second-guess voters. Did not
the debate itself prove that there was a good argument to stop
gay marriage, he asked.
Citizens could discriminate in their daily lives but could
not put that view into law, Olson replied.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)