The gay-marriage trial has turned into a battle over bigotry and Barack Obama. Throughout the first five days of testimony in a case that may decide the national fate of same-sex weddings, marriage backers sought to portray their opponents as driven by discrimination. But foes attempted to show that they are no different from the president.
The fight has become a war over the motivations of the anti-gay-marriage side. Gay-marriage supporters, ironically led by conservative lawyer and former Bush attorney Ted Olson, brought before the court a bevy of experts who testified that denying gays the right to marry is based on a long history of discrimination and is no different from interracial-marriage bans that were overturned more than forty years ago.
But supporters of Proposition 8, which illegalized gay weddings, associated themselves with Obama, noting that the president has said marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. However, the Obama embrace will be put to the test this week when one of the main supporters of Proposition 8, William Tam, takes the stand.
Last week, gay marriage supporters revealed some of the tactics used by Tam last year to gain support for Proposition 8, including a letter he sent equating the cause of gay marriage with the rights of child molesters. He warned that if Proposition 8 failed, "other states would fall into Satan's hands," and said that same-sex marriage would lead to San Francisco legalizing sex with children and that "more children would become homosexual."
Tam's testimony promises to be pivotal, because if the same-sex-marriage side can show that the driving force behind Proposition 8 was animus toward gays and lesbians, then they should be able to prove that the measure was unconstitutional. But if gay marriage opponents can convince the judge that they really harbor no hatred for the gay community, then it could prove decisive in their attempt to keep same-sex weddings illegal.
Ultimately, both sides expect the case to end up in front of the US Supreme Court. And last week, that court may have tipped its hand. In a 5-4 decision, the conservative majority banned cameras from covering the Proposition 8 trial, overruling a decision by Judge Vaughn Walker that would have allowed video of the case to be shown on YouTube. Although the court maintained that it was banning cameras because Walker hadn't followed proper procedures, the ruling may help Proposition 8 backers keep their true motives hidden.
Carpoolers to Pay $2.50
Carpools will no longer cross the Bay Bridge for free and will have to start paying $2.50 per trip under a plan approved by a committee of the Bay Area Toll Authority, according to the Chronicle. The move, which conflicts with efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions because it will result in fewer carpools, was opposed by authority member Tom Bates, mayor of Berkeley and a leading voice on climate change. After Bates realized he couldn't kill the plan, he proposed limiting the carpool toll to $2.00, but failed to garner enough votes.
The authority committee also approved a plan to raise commute-hour tolls for everyone else to $6 and raise the weekend toll to $5. The toll for non-commute weekday hours would remain at $4, while the toll for all hours would rise to $5 on the other Bay Area bridges, except the Golden Gate, which will remain $6. The toll hikes are designed to raise funds for seismic strengthening of the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges. The full authority board will take up the plan later this month.
Elihu Harris Is Out
The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees decided to not renew the contract of embattled Chancellor Elihu Harris. The Contra Costa Times reported that the former Oakland mayor will leave the district when his current pact expires in June. The board gave no official reason for its actions, but Harris has been embroiled in controversy since the Times reported last year that he had steered a lucrative no-bid contract to his business partner.
The former longtime assemblyman also led an effort to fire a Peralta employee whom he believed was the Times' source. The board ultimately refused to go along with the firing, but then earlier this week, it placed the employee's boss, Chief Financial Officer Tom Smith, on administrative leave for unspecified reasons. The board also launched searches to replace both Harris and Smith.
Pot Measure Dies
A landmark pot legalization measure authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano died in the Assembly after the San Francisco legislator was unable to move it through a key committee before a January 15 deadline. The death of the measure came after the bill squeaked out of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee on a 4-3 vote.
Mark McGwire came clean on his steroids use — sort of. He acknowledged juicing while playing for the Oakland A's in the late 1980s and early 1990s and during his record-setting homerun year in 1998. But he also said he took the drugs to heal injuries — not hit homers. Former teammate Jose Canseco, who admitted steroid use years ago, called McGwire a liar. ... Mayoral candidate Don Perata broke a campaign promise to limit contributions to $100. The ex-senator also paid his ally, Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente, $25,000 to help on his statewide tobacco-tax initiative. ... Republican candidate Tom Campbell dropped his gubernatorial bid and announced a run for US Senator. ... And MediaNews Group, owner of the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and San Jose Mercury News, announced that it plans to file for bankruptcy reorganization.