Tears flowed on the first day of the federal trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban. The trial is the nation's first on whether a ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit was brought by two gay couples. Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who live in Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, who live in Los Angeles are the plaintiffs
Both male plaintiffs took the stand and tearfully talked about their love for each other and the heartache they felt because they are not able to marry each other.
One of two lesbians involved in the suit testified that she and her partner have experienced an emotional roller coaster during the past six years involving their desire to marry.
"I want it to happen to me," plaintiff Perry said. "The state isn't letting me feel happy."
The emotional testimony followed opening statements by lawyers on each side of the case.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's peppered lawyers on both sides with questions, asking if they had evidence the Constitution grants gays the right to marry and if states have a reasonable right to deny those marriages.
Walker asked how Proposition 8 could be discriminatory since California already allows domestic partnerships that carry the same rights and benefits of marriage.
"If California would simply get out of the marriage business and classify everyone as a domestic partnership, would that solve the problem?" the judge asked.
A lawyer for the couples opened the trial by claiming, "Marriage is the most important relation in life."
Attorney Theodore Olson argued that California's same-sex marriage ban "stigmatizes gays and lesbians and says 'Your relationship is not the same'" as those of heterosexual couples.
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the sponsors of Proposition 8, argued a different view of marriage, telling the judge that it is "a pro-child social institution."
Cooper said restricting marriage to opposite-sex unions is justified because the basic purpose of marriage is "to promote naturally procreative sexual activity in a stable and enduring relationship" that will nurture children.
"The case is intriguing, exciting and potentially very significant because it addresses multiple important questions that, surprisingly to many, remain open in federal law," Jennifer Pizer, marriage director for the gay law advocacy group Lambda Legal, told the Associated Press. "Can the state reserve the esteemed language and status of marriage just for heterosexual couples, and relegate same-sex couples to a lesser status? Are there any adequate public interests to justify reimposing such a caste system for gay people, especially by a majority vote to take a cherished right from a historically mistreated minority?".
Arguing the two couples' case are two very famous faces who fought on opposite sides of the court case that ended with the election of President George W. Bush in 2000. Theordore (Ted) Olson is the ex-Solicitor General who represented President Bush and David Boies represented Vice President Al Gore. The two are now teaming up to fight the California ban.
Olson has said in the past that the issue is not about liberal or conservative, but instead is about equal rights.
This is not a jury trial. The audience is Judge Walker and anyone who can get a seat in court. The millions who would have been given a chance to watch on You Tube will have to settle for reporter a play-by-play and court sketches.
At the trial, Walker said he intends to ask lawyers to present the facts underlying much of the political rhetoric surrounding same-sex marriage. Among his questions are whether sexual orientation can be changed and the effect on children of being raised by two mothers or two fathers.
Witnesses for Proposition 8 backers will testify that governments historically have sanctioned traditional marriage as a way to promote responsible child-rearing, and that this remains a valid justification for limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
Others expected to testify are academic experts from the fields of political science, history, psychology and economics.
Regardless of the written outcome of Judge Walker, the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it ultimately could become a landmark that determines if gay Americans have the right to marry.
A plan by the judge to allow a delayed broadcast of the trial on YouTube was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court in the hours before court began. The court halted the video coverage until at least Wednesday while justices considers whether to permit it.