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Civil rights groups that campaigned against California's same-sex marriage ban must surrender some of their internal campaign memos and e-mails to lawyers for the other side, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative targeting gay marriage, were entitled to the information as evidence in their defense against a lawsuit challenging the ban.
Walker's decision upholds a previous ruling by a federal magistrate.
The ruling could delay a verdict in the trial, the first in federal court to examine if the U.S. Constitution prevents states from outlawing gay marriages.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Equality California, two of the groups that must turn over the campaign materials, said Monday they are reviewing Walker's order to determine whether to appeal it.
The ACLU and Equality California, the state's largest gay rights group, had argued that the campaign documents being sought were irrelevant to the Proposition 8 lawsuit. They also claimed it was unfair to make them bear the expense of sifting through tens of thousands of old e-mails.
"We do believe this decision is incorrrect," said Geoffrey Kors, Equality California's executive director. "A core issue in the case is whether the motivation of those who put Prop. 8 on the ballot is animus (dislike for gays). Why people opposed Prop. 8 is not relevant."
In rejecting the groups' arguments, Walker said Magistrate Joseph Spero took substantial steps to make the task easier, including listing specific search terms for culling relevant material from computer files and limiting the material to documents dealing with campaign arguments formulated to fight the gay marriage ban.
"To the extent the ACLU and Equality California argue the magistrate's order imposes an undue burden on them, they have failed to substantiate the burden," Walker wrote.
Protect Marriage, the group that sponsored Proposition 8, already has been required to hand over similar campaign materials to lawyers representing two same-sex couples who sued to invalidate the ballot initiative that passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008.
Walker heard two-and-a-half weeks of testimony in the case in January. The proceedings have been on hiatus since then because the judge said he wanted to review the evidence before scheduling closing arguments.
The defense reserved the right to present more evidence before resting its case because its skirmish with the civil rights groups over the campaign documents was unresolved.
Walker on Monday gave Protect Marriage's lawyers until April 12 to submit their remaining evidence.
Source: Associated Press
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