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Gay marriage ban challenge takes first step on the road to the Supremes

A federal challenge to a ban on gay marriage – designed to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – will go to trial in California in January.

Yesterday, a judge set a Jan. 11 trial date in the lawsuit launched in May by power attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies challenging California’s Proposition 8. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the expedited trial schedule was set because the case is “a matter of huge importance for the people of this state.”

The judge denied the requests of several gay rights organizations seeking to join the case as co-plaintiffs. Olson and Boies had opposed the request of the groups, which had initially opposed the lawsuit for fear that a loss would set a negative precedent that would be applied nationwide.

Olson, a staunch conservative and Federalist Society leader who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and Bush, explained in a New York Times piece yesterday why he chose to take on the battle. He said it was a civil rights issue. California’s gay marriage ban, he said, creates three classes: straight couples who can marry, same-sex couples who were allowed to marry for the brief time it was legal in the state, and other same-sex couples for whom marriage is not allowed.

“This case could involve the rights and happiness and equal treatment of millions of people,” Olson said.

“Why wouldn’t I take this case?” Olson said. “Because someone at the Federalist Society thinks I’d be making bad law? I wouldn’t be making bad law.”

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