Image of no prop 8 on a door

Billion-dollar dialysis companies and a labor union are spending tens of millions of dollars to sway Proposition 8 votes their way on Election Day. Health experts say the proposition is unlikely to improve care for dialysis patients and may put care out of reach for patients in low-income areas.

But they also say risky practices in the industry put patients’ lives at risk.

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Thousands of East Bay residents, gay and straight, celebrated last year’s gay rights triumphs on Sunday at Oakland’s second annual Gay Pride Festival. A landmark year in gay rights, 2011 saw the elimination of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the policy that banned openly gay personnel from serving in the military.

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A motion to vacate last summer’s Proposition 8 decision, which ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, was denied today. Proposition 8 supporters argued that federal Judge Vaughn Walker should have been disqualified from presiding over the case because his same-sex relationship gave him an interest in the outcome of the trial.

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2010 was a tumultuous year for Oakland as both the city and state faced a heated election season, the courts weighed the validity of controversial measures passed during previous elections, and the effects of the 2008 financial collapse continued to reverberate throughout the local economy, but it was also a year of new beginnings. Oakland North presents a guide to the year’s top stories.

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When Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled to strike down Proposition 8 on August 4, saying that the same-sex marriage ban was discriminatory and unconstitutional, gay couple Teresa Rowe and Kristin Orbin were elated. But, on August 16, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals imposed a stay on same-sex marriage that will last until at least the end of the year–and now their marriage must wait.

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Oakland residents Joel Preston and Kevin Harrigan were among the 18,000 same-sex couples who got married in California during the six months in 2008 when gay marriage was legal. Now, as the state waits for a ruling in on the Proposition 8 trial that may overturn California’s current ban on same-sex marriage, the couple reflects on what two years of legal marriage have meant to them, and what the right may mean to others.

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As Theodore Olson, the attorney for the same-sex couples who sued the state of California for the right to marry, concluded his final remarks in the historic trial, people watching in the San Francisco courthouse’s overflow room stood up and cheered. Wednesday was the last day in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, and Olson used his final moments before Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker to argue that Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that prohibited same-sex marriage, was discriminatory.

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While supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 wait for a decision in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger federal trial, volunteers with Equality California are going door-to-door in an attempt to change the minds of those who voted for the same-sex marriage ban.

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