SAN FRANCISCO — Just hours after Judge Vaughn R. Walker banged the final gavel in the trial of Proposition 8 — California’s same-sex marriage ban — the two top lawyers challenging the law, David Boies and Theodore Olson, were holding court again: this time at a small private dinner with donors in San Francisco.
The meal, with a handful of people who have given money to the group challenging the ban, could well be seen as the opening maneuver in the second act of the saga of Proposition 8, which both sides expect to wind its way up the federal judicial food chain, most likely all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We would immediately appeal,” Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the proponents of Proposition 8, said when asked if his side were to lose in Judge Walker’s court.
The plaintiffs agree.
“This is in fact just the beginning,” said Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles-based political consultant who is also the board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which backed the Proposition 8 challenge.
Such legal wanderings, of course, are not cheap, and so it is that Mr. Griffin has already begun fund-raising for the next step. “It’s going to take resources,” said Mr. Griffin, who added that he intended to tap “major donors around the country, as well as grass roots and online.”
And whether the case is argued in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court, one thing is also certain: What the next round of judges hears will be very similar to what Judge Walker did.
“We actually believe that the arguments have been as refined as they possibly can be,” said Mr. Pugno, part of a defense that offered only two witnesses. “So you will hear largely the same arguments on appeal as you will in this court. It will just be a different forum.”
Ditto for the plaintiffs.
“I rest with, frankly, confidence, regardless of how this turns out,” Mr. Griffin said. “I don’t think there’s a single thing we would have done different.”
What also seems certain is that the court case may take a while to settle. Judge Walker has no set timetable for issuing a decision. While that waiting game plays out, however, there is also the possibility of another ballot measure to overturn Proposition 8, which passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. That could come as soon as 2012.
In the meantime, Mr. Griffin said his group had been signing up about 2,000 people a day to an e-mail list that will alert followers the moment Judge Walker’s decision is filed. One of those signed up is Cynthia Laird, the editor of The Bay Area Reporter, a local gay newspaper, who said that the certainty of an appeal had subdued the sense of anticipation for some.
“While we’re hopeful for a positive ruling from the judge, one that strikes down Prop 8, it won’t be the last word,” Ms. Laird said in an e-mail message.
Mr. Griffin himself is not so cool.
“I think I provide new meaning to CrackBerry,” he said. “It would be fair to say my BlackBerry does not often leave my hand or bedside.”
Mr. Pugno, who is running as a Republican for a seat representing several Sacramento-area communities in the California Legislature, seemed considerably more sanguine.
“Actually, there’s a certain — oh, what’s the word? — there’s a certain calmness that comes with knowing you have the law on your side,” Mr. Pugno said. “You sit back and you realize that the great weight of law is on our side, and no matter what happens here, we have confidence that the people’s right to vote will ultimately prevail.”
Mr. Pugno said that his defense of Proposition 8 rarely came up on the campaign trail in California, where unemployment is more than 12 percent and the budget has a $19 billion gap.
“People are most concerned with tackling two things: state spending and the jobs environment,” Mr. Pugno said. “Voters are not focused on social issues.”
But he did admit to being riveted as final arguments were heard June 16.
“I think the point came into focus when Charles Cooper,” the lead defense lawyer, “said that to overturn this law, the court would have to essentially accuse seven million voters of ill intent,” Mr. Pugno recalled. “That really stands out.”
Once again, the plaintiffs agree that the closing arguments were exciting, just not who was exciting.
“I thought that the last 30 minutes of Ted’s rebuttal was the best 30 minutes I’ve seen in five decades of practicing law,” Mr. Boies said of Mr. Olson, his opponent in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 Supreme Court battle over the presidency.
He also admitted to being moved by testimony by his clients, two gay couples seeking to invalidate Proposition 8.
“I think when they were asked ‘Why do you want to get married?’ I think even the defense was affected by that,” he said. “I still get emotional remembering those answers.”
Mr. Cooper, who declined to answer questions after his closing argument, did not respond to an e-mail request for his recollections of the trial, which began in January.
As for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies were apparently happy with their performance; after the private dinner, they “went out and had some drinks and more food, which we really didn’t need,” Mr. Boies said.
Joining them, he said, were some lawyers from their team, who had worked for a year on the case. No lawyers from the defense were there, though Mr. Boies said that after such a hard-fought battle, Mr. Cooper and his team would have been welcome.
“Clearly,” Mr. Boies said, “we would have invited him.”