San Francisco's federal courthouse will be a media madhouse starting Monday. The draw of reporters from across the country and around the world is U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom and the chance to see gay marriage debated in court and on screen.
A landmark trial on California's ban on same-sex marriage is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Supporters gathered well before then, however, preparing for a sunrise vigil.
For the first time in the federal court system's 9th District, cameras will be allowed to videotape and broadcast the proceeding. The video release will be delayed by at least a day and broadcast on YouTube.
The lawsuit was brought by two couples who claim the ban violates their federal constitutional right to due process and equal treatment. This is not a jury trial. The audience is Judge Walker and anyone who wants to log on.
Walker turned down an offer by Court TV to shoot the proceedings, and opted instead to have the court's technology department do it.
Tech workers, one wearing a judge's robe, sat in three locations for a test broadcast one day last week. The proceedings will be shown in a triple split screen with a camera on the judge, the witness and the lawyer. That test video was put on line in a matter of minutes, but the court is warning the real thing will take 24 hours to post on You Tube.
The judge said if witnesses did not want to be videotaped, they would simply turn off one of the three cameras during their testimony. Walker said he will shut it down entirely if it turns out to be a distraction or causes problems.
Bay City News breaks down the legalities surrounding the case:
Proposition 8 was approved by voters in 2008.
The couples' lawyers argued in a recent court filing that the initiative "is an irrational, indefensible and unconstitutional measure."
Proposition 8 sponsors contend, however, that it is a reasonable way of preserving the traditional definition of marriage and supporting what they say is marriage's central purpose of having children raised by a father and mother.
Their attorneys have written, "The institution of marriage is, and has always been, uniquely concerned with promoting and regulating naturally procreative relationships between men and women to provide for the nurture and upbringing of the next generation."
Walker will decide the case without a jury and is expected to issue a written ruling sometime after the end of the trial.
The case is considered certain to be appealed eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, after an intermediate stop in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
A previous five-year battle over same-sex marriage in California centered on the state Constitution and ended in May 2009 when the California Supreme Court said voters had the power to amend the state document to require marriage to be between a man and a woman.
The lawsuit filed in May by couples Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank took a new tack by claiming violations of the federal Constitution.
The first witnesses to take the stand Monday will be the four plaintiffs. They are due to testify about the harms they allegedly have suffered from not being allowed to marry.
Their lawsuit says the harms include humiliation, emotional distress, stigma and denial of "the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage."
Other witnesses to be called to the stand by both sides will be university professors and other experts who will testify about the definition of marriage, its economic value, whether children of opposite-sex marriages fare better and the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for the two couples, said the case is the nation's first challenge to same-sex marriage restrictions to go to trial in a federal court.