Archive for "Jan, 18 2010"

Prop 8 Trial Week 1 Weekend Updates (Monday)

Well, the 3-day weekend is coming to a close. We took a day to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and to reflect back on the first week of the trial, and now it’s time to gear up for another week of proceedings. Here are a few more articles you might find interesting before we dig back into the trial.

» MLK Jr., Civil Rights, DADT and the Urgency of Leading by Aubrey Sarvis (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network)

Piggybacking off Maureen Dowd and Jon Barrett’s posts yesterday, Aubrey Sarvis adds his thoughts on President Obama’s need to step-up his active support of gays and lesbians. If “the urgency of the hour demands that we fight discrimination,” as Obama said in his Martin Luther King day speech yesterday, then when will he begin walking the walk as King did? Sarvis’s tone is one of forsakenness, echoing a sentiment that Obama is not one who we can depend on and concluding: “it will be very difficult this year without the President leading the way.”

» San Francisco Gate: Dueling portraits of Prop. 8 backers at trial

Today’s piece in the San Francisco Gate reflects on the way President Obama has been invoked in the trial already. While plenty of rhetorical tactics have been used by both sides regarding Obama (he supported civil unions, but his parents couldn’t have married in Virginia), nothing seems to be more critical than this point:

As the trial on the constitutionality of Prop. 8 enters its second week in San Francisco federal court, gay rights forces want Obama to take a stand. The advocacy group Equality California said Friday that it has collected 91,000 signatures on a petition urging the president to file a brief supporting a challenge to the measure. The White House has not responded.

The silence is deafening.

» Pro Prop. 8 Attorney Cooper: You Can’t Destroy Bigotry By Erasing Tapes by Charles Karel Bouley

Charles Bouley offers us a scathing critique of the defenders of Proposition 8 as well as the Supreme Court for their decision last week. He points out that, “The XIV Amendment is very clear, and a fourth grader could see that Prop 8 clearly violates it,” and reminds us that there is a Constitutional process for impeaching justices that we should not forget about. While perhaps a bit extreme, I found Bouley’s piece refreshing after the cold analyses and reactions others have offered to the SCOTUS’s actions.

» Challenging Prop 8: The Hidden Story from California Lawyer Magazine

If you’re curious about how this case came to be, this is the story for you. Like last week’s New Yorker piece, “A Risky Proposal,” this article covers a lot of the backstory, but unlike the New Yorker piece, this focuses on the legal background and all the players involved in making this case happen. Read through this story to learn just how the lawyers and plaintiffs came together to make a federal case for gay marriage, trumping most gay activists state-by-state strategy.

» Olson firm has history of supporting gay marriage from Keen News Service

Adding further illumination to the background of Ted Olson, Lisa Keen shows us that supporting LGBT issues is not a new phenomenon to his firm. If there are any out there who still don’t trust Olson’s motives in this case, the room for doubt is getting narrower and narrower.

» You Gotta Give Them Hope by P8TT’s Brian Leubitz

Brian Leubitz primes us for another week by drawing inspiration not from Martin Luther King but Harvey Milk. I’d encourage you to read a post I wrote a year ago about Harvey Milk that features many quotes and reflections on his importance to our movement. The work he did truly set a new precedent for public discourse on LGBT issues. If you are not fully aware of Milk’s contributions, I suggest you watch this historic documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk:

For a complete look at coverage on this trial, check my Perry v. Schwarzenegger archive.

Why You Should Absolutely Care About The Prop 8 Trial (And How!)

You’re a week behind, you know. History’s unfolding. Were you aware? Don’t worry, late is better than never. I’ll help you catch up down below, but first, let’s talk about why you’re here.

I’m just going to assume you’re on my site because you have at least a passing interest in queer equality. Maybe you know the ins and outs of DOMA, DADT, and ENDA, or maybe you don’t. That’s okay, you don’t have to. In fact, all that you really need to do is care in the slightest about what’s happening right now in California and understand why it’s important.

Last week began the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. This case is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which ended the state’s recognition of same-sex marriages in 2008. “Perry” is Kris Perry, one of four plaintiffs (two same-sex couples, pictured at right) who are challenging the ban. “Schwarzenegger” is obviously the Governator, but he and his attorney general decided not to defend Prop 8, so the group that originally promoted Prop 8 (Yes on 8, now known as Protect Marriage) is defending in the governor’s place. (They’re called defense-intervenors for this reason.)

Now, here’s your first important point. Even though this may just look like a challenge to a state law, it’s taking place in federal court. Why is this important? Because it means the implications of the verdict would apply outside of California. Pretty much everybody expects this case to make it to the Supreme Court. The conclusion of this trial could be epic.

The main issue in the case is marriage, which means that if Proposition 8 is overturned, such a decision could overturn all bans on same-sex marriage, including the federal Defense of Marriage Act. (Even in states with marriage equality, the federal DOMA prevents same-sex couples from enjoying true marriage equality.)

But that’s not all. This trial could also lead to the classification of sexual orientation as a suspect class. Were that to happen, this proceeding would not just affect marriage equality, but would ripple out and truly open doors to full queer equality. Perry v. Schwarzenegger would stand the test of time, being remembered alongside other historic civil rights cases like Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education. Gays and lesbians would finally be legally recognized as an oppressed minority.

Now, you might be saying, “But why do I need to care? Whatever happens in the trial happens in the trial.” There is truth in the notion that none of us can actually affect the judge’s decision. We cannot participate in the trial. But this narrow view ignores the significance of these proceedings.

You see, in this trial, it’s not just Prop 8 that’s at stake. It’s our entire community—our entire movement. In order for the judge to make an informed decision, the plaintiffs have to educate the court on why Proposition 8 is bad. That means not just talking about Prop 8, but the entire history of the oppression of our community. This trial brings to light all of the ways society is miseducated about sexual orientation and all of the ways gays and lesbians have suffered as a result. The expert witnesses have given extensive testimony that amount to classroom lectures on the history, psychology, and sociology of gays and lesbians. Take a look at the topics covered in just this first week:

» The history of marriage (Dr. Nancy Cott)
» The history (and presence) of discrimination against and demonization of gays and lesbians (Dr. George Chauncey)
» Same-sex marriage would have no effect on heterosexual marriage (Dr. Letitia Peplau)
» The economic losses from banning same-sex marriage (Dr. Edmund Egan)
» The continued stigma and prejudice gays and lesbians experience (Dr. Ilan Meyer)
» Same-sex couples are just as fit to raise children as heterosexual couples (Dr. Michael Lamb)
» Same-sex couples’s well-being benefits from having marriage (Helen Zia)

And there’s more to come! You see, it’s not just about some law in some state. It’s about our lives.

This is an opportunity for us to educate others. This testimony is to educate the court, but in a public trial, there’s no reason it shouldn’t educate the public too. By taking an interest in this trial, you can share with friends and family the harsh truths of our existence and continue to rally public support.

This is probably the most important point of why you should care about the trial: Our opponents don’t want us to see it. Tell me if this makes any sense to you in the 21st Century: The trial is public. Anybody can go to San Francisco to the courthouse and watch. However, the defendants have fervently campaigned to prevent broadcast of the trial. Why are they so concerned about others seeing it?? If nothing else, this should rouse your suspicions.

Our lives are on the line and our stories are being illuminated through testimony, but our opponents are doing everything they can to extinguish that light. Unfortunately, there’s not much more they can do. We have passionate advocates spending all day in the courthouse furiously typing to make sure that we all have access to these important proceedings. How sad would it be if we were finally granted rights, but most of the public didn’t understand why?

That’s why you should care. We have a duty to join those advocates who can be in the courthouse to continue to raise awareness about these proceedings. We have friends, families, and communities in which we can share the important events taking place in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. All of us who truly have a concern for gay rights need to do everything we can to magnify the accessibility of this trial.

So, I’m glad you’re here. Like I said, you’re a week late, but that’s not a problem, because we can catch you up. It’ll take some reading on your part, but my commitment here on the blog is to provide you as much access as possible so you can peruse what’s right for you. Rather than digging through epic transcripts from the livebloggers (like I do) or trying to make some sense of the case via Twitter, you can turn to ZackFord Blogs daily for a roundup of all the news.

Since you might be brand new to the case, I would start by taking a look at this Prop. 8 Trial First Week Roundup courtesy of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (who are supporting the plaintiffs). This well give you a general sense of what has taken place and who the key players are.

Then, if you want a bit more candid look at some of the drama that unfolded last week, take a look at Karen Ocamb’s piece today on Huffington Post: Supreme Court Camera Ruling Continues History of Anti-Gay Discrimination. She addresses a lot of the events that have taken place outside the trial’s proceedings that are of significance.

And, if you have a little bit more time for catching up, I’d recommend you take a look at the recaps that the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Shannon Minter has been posting each day over at Pam’s House Blend. He really does a nice job summarizing each day’s proceedings while still providing a decent amount of detail. Here are those posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.

I’ve been following the trial in my own unique way, by responding to each of the posts published by Protect Marriage’s Andy Pugno. Pugno has been regularly trying to spin the case to make it look like his side is winning. It’s not surprising that his posts provide limited detail about what actually is said in the courtroom and are also closed to comments. In some ways, the content of his posts actually reinforces the points the plaintiffs are trying to make about discrimination and demonization, so I hope to bring these to light.

In addition, I’ve been trying to aggregate all of the various media coverage on the case (and getting better at it by the day). So, at the end of each day, you can come to ZackFord Blogs and get linked to the liveblog transcripts, blogs and recaps about the days proceedings, mainstream news coverage, and the most popular #prop8 links being shared on Twitter. All of this can be found in my Perry v. Schwarzenegger archive:

I hope it continues to be a helpful resource for keeping up with the trial. The stakes are high, and we owe it to our communities and to ourselves to stay informed about what’s taking place.

MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail 2.0 (Three Excerpts)

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Washington. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Washington, but it is even more unfortunate that the nation’s heterosexist power structure left the LGBT community with no alternative.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Washington is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Barack Obama as president will bring the millennium to the United States. While Mr. Obama is a much more gentle person than Mr. Bush, they are both heterosexists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Obama will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to LGBT equality. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of heterosexism. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every gay and lesbian with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I must make two honest confessions to you, my brothers and sisters. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the straight ally. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the LGBT community’s great stumbling block in its stride toward freedom is not the Family Research Council or the National Organization for Marriage, but the straight ally, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the LGBT community to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Though 46 years have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr. first wrote his letter, many of the themes resonate today just as much as they did then. We are in a time when the press for LGBT equality is revealing the timidity of our society’s leaders to support us. We must recognize that continuing to wait, as we have been asked time and time again to do, only enables our continued oppression. It is the oppression of employment, housing, and marriage that propagates the hate, stigma, and violence that still cloud our lives.

To my friends and colleagues who point out that the plight of gays and lesbians does not come close in comparison to what people of color have suffered, I agree. I would not try to make such a comparison. But the themes and tactics used to maintain our oppressions have been similar. On a day dedicated to a man who stood for justice and did not have the patience to have his rights handed to him, I feel the best way to honor him is not to look back upon him in the past, but to use his words to look upon a brighter future.

The work he started has not yet concluded. We press on.