Court to hear Prop 8 case next month

Posted on 05 Feb 2009 at 6:33pm
By Wire Reports

Panel must rule within 90 days of oral arguments on marriage ban

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s highest court will hear oral arguments early next month in legal challenges to the state’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled a March 5 hearing date for oral arguments in a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8.

Gay couples, several local governments and Attorney General Jerry Brown maintain the ballot initiative, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, is unconstitutional.

If it opts to uphold the measure, the court has said it will also decide whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed when gay marriage was legal in California are valid.

After hearing arguments, the court’s seven justices will have 90 days in which to issue a ruling.

Also this week, newly released campaign filings showed that more than $83 million was donated to support or oppose the ballot initiative that abolished same-sex marriage in California.

The new filings cover the weeks immediately before and after the Nov. 4 election. They show that elected officials, businesses, churches and individuals poured more than $28 million into the campaigns during the contest’s closing days.

The final tallies show that opponents of Proposition 8 raised $43.3 million in 2008 and had a little more than $730,000 left on hand at year’s end. The measure’s sponsors raised $39.9 million and had $983,000 left over.

Even before the late contributions were added, the race was the most expensive ballot measure on a social issue in the nation’s history. Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote. Gay marriage backers have asked the California Supreme Court to overturn it.

The new disclosure forms reveal that the state Democratic party and Democratic politicians gave heavily in the campaign’s closing days to defeat the gay marriage ban, which overturned the state Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in June.

The Democratic State Central Committee donated $150,000 and spent another $202,647 on mailers and other in-kind contributions. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom funneled $20,000 from the committee he has established to explore running for governor next year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the same amount from her re-election account to the No on 8 campaign.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been criticized for strongly encouraging its members to support Proposition 8, for the first time assigned a dollar value of nearly $190,000 to its role in getting the initiative passed.

More than half, or $97,000, went to the time staff of the Utah-based Mormon Church devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign, according to the church’s report. Another $21,000 was for the use of church buildings and equipment during the campaign. Most of the rest went to airline tickets, hotels and meals for church officials.

The church said it did not make any cash donations supporting the measure.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has been investigating the Mormon Church for allegedly underreporting its spending on behalf of Proposition 8.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said Monday that the church has complied with all campaign finance laws and that the updated figures come in response to the state’s disclosure deadlines, not the FPPC investigation.

"The value of the Church’s in-kind contribution is less than one-half of one percent of the total funds raised for the Yes on 8 campaign," Farah said.

Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian media empire based in Colorado, reported giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.

The new round of reports also list about 530 small and late donors whose contributions in support of the same-sex marriage ban had not been publicly available until Monday. Proposition 8′s sponsors had sought permission to keep the identities of those contributors secret, arguing that the identifying information in previous campaign reports had led to donors being harassed.

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the donors had to be disclosed for now, but said ProtectMarriage.com and the National Organization for Marriage could proceed with a lawsuit seeking to have the information removed from the secretary of state’s Web site.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 6, 2009.

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