Archive for "Jan, 22 2010"

Day 9 of the Prop 8 Trial: Do Gays and Lesbians Even Exist?

The question in the title of this post is what the defense wasted our day with. This afternoon was just more of what the defense offered this morning: study after study (none of which were from the last decade) with individual sentences taken out of context being used in an attempt to demonstrate that gays and lesbians are not identifiable. Given that the only difference between same-sex orientations and opposite-sex orientations is the societal context in which they develop, this exercise didn’t seem to prove anything (though I’m sure Andy Pugno thought it was just an “outstanding” cross-examination).

Actually, if anything, it showed that more people suffer from discrimination and stigma than just those who choose to identify as gays and lesbians.

Visit my mid-day post for a lot more detail on these issues as well as other coverage from Day 9. (A lot of the links that are still circulating tonight, including numerous Huffing Post articles, can be found on that post.) Below that are other transcripts and coverage of today’s proceedings.

ZFb: Some Day 9 Mid-Day Updates, Suspect Classes, and Mainstream Coverage, ADF Invokes Same Demonization Tactic It’s Trying To Downplay

P8TT: Complete Transcript Summary, Pay No Attention to Those People Over There: They Don’t Exist, Judge Walker announces break in trial

Firedoglake: Morning 1, Morning 2, Afternoon 1, Afternoon 2, Prop 8 Trial Closing Arguments Delayed, A Barren Straight Wife Watches the Prop 8 Trial

Shannon Minter (NCLR): Day 9 Recap

San Jose Mercury: Prop. 8 trial Day 9: Live coverage from the courtroom, Prop 8 trial sees joust over whether homosexuality is product of choice or nature

Keen News Service: Prop 8 defenders: No sharp line between gays and straights (This is a GREAT analysis of today’s grueling testimony.)

Edge: Prop 8 trial, Day 9: Testimony over reparative therapy continues

Good As You: Jeremy responds to both the Alliance Defense Fund and National Organization for Marriage: Wherein the ADF tries, fails to recast ‘Good Night and Good Luck’, NOM declares another McCain 08 loss

LGBT POV: Gloria Nieto: The California storms, the Prop 8 trial and me, NOM on Prop 8 challenge: Christianity on trial

In other good news, the Hawaii Senate passed a bill on Civil Unions. Every little bit of progress helps us get to real equality.

That’s it for now. I’ll update this post throughout the evening as more links come in. Let’s end the week with some more delightful tweets from Protect Mawwiage:

What first amendment? Courts undermining our freedom to oppress using lies, fear, and slander! #protectmarriage

Another week of #prop8, another week of media gays keeping it quiet. Thanks @andersoncooper @perezhilton @theellenshow! Checks in the mail!

Glad our side is attacking definition of “gay”. Must make sure we do this when we pass laws against Jews, other “lifestyle choices”. #prop8

Our lawyer says that if u choose to b a part of a minority it’s ok to discriminate against them. Well hot damn, open them floodgates! #prop8

Uch. Even bored by our own lawyers. Paging Dr. Tam, paging Dr. Bill Tam, we need your unintentional hilarity in the courtroom, stat. #prop8

#prop8 lawyer seems pretty sure sexual orientation is fluid and malleable. Wonder if he’s speaking from experience. #protectmarriage

notRT @ADFMedia At stake: Whether voters can decide thru democ process that a minority can be squashed, humiliated #prop8 #protectmarriage

notRT @ADFMedia At stake: Whether Americans forfeit core of democracy by letting small group void const amend. Like the blacks in 67. #prop8

@ADFMedia maybe you can tell the #prop8 trial that people are mean to you on twitter. It counts as violent persecution! #protectmarriage

LALALA! GAYS AREN’T REAL! LALALA! RT @protectmarriage #prop8 expert on sex orient says “biological evidence of homos is weak & inconclusive”

We fight for the 1st amendment! Unless ur @CourageCampaign, then we’ll sue the shit out of u over some stick figures #prop8 #protectmarriage

Some Day 9 Mid-Day Updates, Suspect Classes, and Mainstream Coverage

I have to say, today’s testimony is dull, because it’s clear what the defense is trying to do ad nauseam and it’s just not working. Dr. Gregory Herek is testifying on the following three points:

1. The nature of sexual orientation and how it’s understood in sociology and psychology.
2. The immutability of sexual orientation.
3. The stigma and prejudice against gays and lesbians and how that intersects with Prop 8.

Herek made it quite clear the beginning of his testimony that sexual orientation as a general concept has three intersecting components: sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual self-identity. All the studies show that while there are some variations between how an individual identifies with all three, they usually align.

I often use the chart at right (click to embiggen) to help folks understand that there are a variety of independent components to gender and sex identities. Every individual might experience or identify differently with the various continua, but any combination can allow for a normal and healthy identity. Most important to note is that it’s not any “different” for “homosexuals.”

Despite this, the defense continues to cite ancient studies in hopes of demonstrating that there is no clear way to define “homosexuality,” and so there is no way to identify sexual orientation as a suspect class. Dr. Herek consistently reiterates the same working definition, but what’s important to note is that defining homosexuality is no different than defining heterosexuality. We certainly don’t make heterosexuals prove through a measure of their attractions or behaviors that they are heterosexual before they marry an opposite-sex partner.

An important comparison is religion. Religion is (or at least ought to be) freely chosen, but it is considered a suspect class. What “defines” a Christian? Would they have to prove their Christianity to the court? What if they had a revelation right in the middle of their testimony… would that be enough? Technically, I was baptized, so even though I’ve written extensively about my atheism, there are some people who would say I will always be “Catholic.” It frustrates me that the defense is wasting our time with this junk science when precedent shows that it really doesn’t do anything to impugn the plaintiffs’ case .

Anyways, that’s what’s happening today, and the plaintiffs will be rest today after some other videos they plan to show (which I suspect are more of the deposition tapes). Here are some other links to check out!

New York Times: Chinese Christians Are the Focus of Same-Sex Marriage Case – I don’t agree with the headline exactly, but it’s an interesting look at the religious groups William Tam works with.

More stories about William Tam’s testimony: Prop. 8 backer’s function in campaign disputed (SF Gate) and Going Hostile: Boies & Co. Attack Motivations of Prop. 8 Backers

Coverage of this morning’s testimony: Mid-day report: Day 9 Prop 8 trial (Keen News Service), Prop 8 trial witness: Being gay not a choice (Seattle Times)

And here are a number of great pieces on Huffington Post worth looking at today!

Mayor Jerry Sanders: Proud to Testify for Marriage Equality

Hak-Shing William Tam, Prop. 8 Backer, Claims Gays More Likely To Be Pedophiles

What Is Really on Trial in the Prop 8 Case? (Hint: “Knowledge.” Read the piece to find out more!)

Why Straight People Should Be Following the Prop. 8 Federal Trial

That last piece fits really well with my piece from earlier in the week, Why You Should Absolutely Care About The Prop 8 Trial (And How!). This weekend, I’ll also be working on a piece on why this case is important to atheists.

Check back later tonight for more updates on today’s proceedings, or as always, check the archive to catch up on the trial.

ADF Invokes Same Demonization Tactic It’s Trying To Downplay

I haven’t written as much about the Alliance Defense Fund, but I’m sure many of you know that they are a Christian legal group working with Protect Marriage to defend Proposition 8. They also put out their own twisted interpretations of the proceedings and other propaganda to rally support for “traditional marriage.”

If you’ve been following the testimony at all, you know that the theme of children has come up quite a bit. There has been a history of demonizing gays and lesbians as being linked to pedophilia (and recruiting!) and Yes on 8 continued this theme with their constant messages of “Protect Our Children.” The plaintiffs’ experts’ testimony has all verified that gays and lesbians pose no risk and these tactics are used just to play on people’s fears and misunderstandings so that gays and lesbians continue to experience discrimination.

Now, I found this interesting document published by ADF that one ADF tweet called a “Call To Action.” The action? Prayer. (Click to embiggen!)

In the spirit of this blog, I need to take a moment to make fun of this, but the more important relevance is below. ADF wants everybody to pray together every morning at the same time. I don’t know if there are specific tactics that make prayer “more effective” (0 • x = 0) that I don’t know about, but apparently praying across the country at the same time makes a difference. I’d be pissed if I was on the west coast and had to get up early just to pray at 7:30 just so I would be praying simultaneously with east coast folks at 10:30. I’m sure prayer every day is making a big difference. God is surely going to intervene in these proceedings, because discrimination is just as important to him as it is to the people who worship him. (Note: Belief is not self-serving at all.)

But anyways, as I analyzed the handout that ADF made for Bible study groups, I noticed something more alarming. A lot of it is the same self-victimization nonsense that we’ve been hearing. But take a look at that third bullet under “What’s Also at Stake?”:

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE. Will marriage be treated as nothing more than a legal arrangement, subject to constant reconfiguration to satisfy the whims of adults, without regard for the important interests of children and social stability?

Unbelievable.

Even as they seek to separate themselves from the fallacies of messaging invoking children, they are sending out new propaganda invoking children!

It’s subtle, but it’s there!

Alliance Defense Fund, shame on you. It’s totally clear that the motivations of you and your ilk is to continue the demonization of gays and lesbians. Even though the testimony over the past two weeks has made it clear that children are not at all at risk, you continue to use them as a tactic to scare your followers into persisting in their discriminatory views.

Just a reminder to everyone out there: our lives are on the line.

Protect Marriage, Day 8: Freedom of Religion = Freedom to Discriminate

You know, it’s both interesting and frustrating. As the trial proceeds, it seems that Andy Pugno is losing his cool. It’s nice to see him get defensive, but he gets snarkier the more defensive he gets. His latest post on Protect Marriage’s blog is absolutely ridiculous. Let’s get to it.

What First Amendment?

Over the last couple of days, we have been treated by the plaintiffs to astonishing intrusions into areas supposedly protected by the First Amendment, including religious freedoms and the political rights of free speech and association.

Let’s be clear. At no point in time has there even been a suggestion that anyone was not entitled to their beliefs or the right to speak them. This is distortion of an incredible magnitude that the religious right is quite fond of. The plaintiffs are effectively demonstrating that any vote for Prop 8 is rooted in prejudice, if not overt animus, fueled by misinformation and bad science used intentionally to rally public fear and stigma of gays and lesbians, arguing that there is no compelling reason to pass such a law other than to intentionally discriminate against a group that does not have the power to protect their own rights. The defense is trying to say “it doesn’t matter, they’re allowed to believe whatever.” That’s not a compelling defense for Prop 8, but it’s all they have. This is nothing but self-victimization, but in no way is anyone’s constitutional freedoms of speech or religion on the line in this trial.

Let’s see how Pugno tries to suggest they are.

It started Wednesday when a Stanford political science professor testified that, in his opinion, organized religion in the United States is such an overwhelming threat to gays and lesbians that they should be declared a vulnerable “minority” entitled to extraordinary legal protections under the US Constitution.  In short, he concluded, “religion is the problem.”

Pugno loves his mocking quotes. How is a group not a minority if they’re, at best, 4-7% of the population and their rights are constantly voted on by the “majority”?

The way he words this also craftily draws a sharp dichotomy between gays and lesbians and the monolithic “religion.” In some ways, this is what it looks like politically, but I’m sure Pugno does this to make sure his supporters see all gays and lesbians as satanic atheists. He ignores the fact that many gays and lesbians are quite spiritual and participatory in religion, as well as the fact that some religious groups (smaller ones, unfortunately) have been quite supportive. This is all about taking umbrage on behalf of religion to further Prop 8 supporters’ self-victimization.

As a result of this “problem,” the witness testified, gays and lesbians in the United States are “politically powerless,” a legal term of art meaning that they are at such a disadvantage so as to be incapable of defending themselves in the political process.  Of course, the notion that the gay and lesbian community is politically feeble should sound backward to anyone, especially living in California.  Common knowledge tells us that gays and lesbians wield substantial political power in our state, both in passing major gay rights legislation and in amassing opposition to Prop 8.  Just one example:  While the California Teachers Association and other labor unions gave millions to the No on 8 campaign, not a single labor union ever contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign.

A legal term of art? He sure will use any turn of phrase he can to make it look like he’s not losing this case. Politically powerless is not just a “legal term of art,” but a key legal term in determining whether sexual orientation should be a suspect class. And when the case is question was an unprecedented vote to strip a group of a right it already had, how can you see that group as anything BUT politically powerless? And your argument is that the unions were on our side? How convenient he didn’t mention the massive covert collaboration between religious organizations to preach and campaign “in every zip code.” Oh wait, he does, but he uses those snarky quotes again to play it down:

Of particular concern to the witness was the “breathtaking” numbers of people who volunteered their time in the campaign to help carry Prop 8 to victory.  The volunteer effort was so strong, he said, that it was impossible for gays and lesbians to defeat Prop 8.  And so Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.  Really?  So let me get this straight.  If you lose a campaign because you can’t persuade the majority of people to rally behind you, then you have a constitutional right to nullify the votes of the majority.  Hmm.

It boggles the mind, truly.

If you lose a campaign for your own (formerly) constitutionally protect civil rights? Then, yes. It’s not mind-boggling at all.

Later Wednesday, lawyers for the plaintiffs started submitting evidence of the “improper” influence of Catholics, Baptists, and other major religious communities in support of the traditional definition of marriage.  As though the First Amendment itself had disappeared, the court allowed their lawyers—over the strenuous objections of our legal defense team—to pry into the internal records of churches, communications between church members and church leaders, and other similar documents revealing these religious organizations’ commitment to protecting traditional marriage.

Once again, Pugno neglects to mention anything about the Mormon church. Perhaps he knows there’s nothing he can do to play that one down, or maybe, despite all the support they gave to the campaign, they’re just not his audience any more. All of those documents pertained to the campaign, and it is bogus to think that just because they’re “religious” documents that they somehow get some extra special protection. I’m very glad the judge didn’t fall for that. It’s petty and pathetic and most importantly, an abuse of the privileges and respects that have been accorded religion.

For anyone who values the right to associate with others in a church community and freely exercise the tenants of their faith without fear of being dragged into court because of their beliefs, yesterday afternoon’s blitzkrieg by the plaintiffs into our previously protected religious and political freedoms was terrifying to behold.

I love it. They were “previously” protected. There was nothing terrifying. Freedom to hold beliefs does not mean complete immunity from accountability when you’re trying to encumber others’ civil rights. Let’s call this kind of language what it is: whining. Pugno is a cry-baby sissy pants. Yeah, I said it.

Then Thursday, for the first time (we believe) ever in a court of law, a proponent of a voter initiative was put on the stand to be interrogated under oath about his own political, moral and religious views.  Not only was the Prop 8 supporter forced to reveal his political and religious views under penalty of perjury, but he was further forced to defend and substantiate his views so the court can decide whether his views are “improper.”

More like illegitimate and motivated by animus. I guess I wouldn’t call them “proper” either. Despite desperate attempts to distance Tam from the Yes on 8 “core group,” it was clear they worked together and that the language he used confirms all of the messages of stigma and demonization that previous testimony described. He was your buddy, Pugno; he’s yours to deal with.

Clearly the plaintiffs will go to any lengths—even if it means sacrificing the precious protections of the First Amendment—to achieve their goal of invalidating the vote of the people.

And clearly the defense will go to any length to play the victim to avoid taking any accountability for their actions.