Earlier today, I highlighted the two most significant points in today’s testimony. Keep those handy. As we dive into Andy Pugno’s latest Protect Marriage spin, you’ll need them because he conveniently neglects to include them in his summary. (Also, I’ve included the video of Mayor Sanders’ press conference that was shown in court today at the bottom of the post, if you’re interested. It’s pretty moving.)
Here we go!
The second week of the Perry v Schwarzenegger trial against Prop 8 began the way the first week ended: full of emotional testimony about how it “feels” for the relationships of gays and lesbians to not be considered “marriage.” The plaintiff attorneys hope that the personal sentiments of a handful of witnesses, alone, will sway the court to invalidate the vote of more than 7 million Californians for keeping marriage between a man and a woman.
Pugno’s smug sarcasm is lost on me. What does it mean to “feel” as opposed to feel? Are “feelings” fake… maybe illegitimate? How does Pugno decide when feelings are real and when feelings are just “feelings”? And why put “marriage” in quotes? He seems to be implying that even if gays and lesbians had marriage (the real thing), he would still see their relationships as “marriage” (not the real thing). I guess the only take away is that Pugno will do whatever he needs to do to remind us of his contemptuous attitude towards the plaintiffs; even if they win, he still won’t respect them or their “rights.” The will of the majority must be protected!
San Diego Mayor, Jerry Sanders, provided emotional testimony wherein he expressed his feelings behind changing his mind on the issue of civil unions. At the time he previously supported civil unions for homosexual couples, he believed it was “a fair alternative to marriage,” and that he “didn’t communicate hatred and didn’t feel hatred” toward gay and lesbians by supporting civil unions.
Sanders also conceded on cross examination by Prop 8 defense team attorney Brian Raum that he believes “reasonable people can disagree on the value of civil unions versus same-sex marriage without hostility, animus or hatred” for homosexuals, and that a “good number” of people who voted for Prop 8 likely did so without animus, simply believing in the traditional meaning of marriage.
I don’t see a compelling point in the first paragraph to warrant an “also” in the following paragraph, but whatever. Here’s where you can pull out that important little excerpt from the very cross examination Pugno refers to. How many times did Sanders make the point that anything short of full marriage equality is “grounded in prejudice“? According to Firedoglake’s transcripts, Sanders made this point at least five times. As a teacher, I know that repetition is important for helping students learn, but apparently learning is not Pugno’s strong point. (OR, it is, but sharing isn’t.)
This is an important point for the plaintiffs to have made. Yes, there are plenty of folks who think that their (self-constructed) beliefs in the “traditional meaning of marriage” does not intend animus or hatred. That doesn’t change the fact that their message is received in that light, and that no matter their motives, their beliefs cannot be separated from prejudice.
Sanders has a lesbian daughter who married her partner in Vermont last December while on a trip to visit her partner’s family in New York. It seems they decided, by Sanders’ testimony, to marry on the spur of the moment and did not include any family or friends at their ceremony. After the fact, Sanders was informed by a telephone call that his daughter had gotten married. Sanders repeatedly testified about his hurt feelings about missing his daughter’s nuptials that weren’t witnessed by any family or friends (no word why the New Yorkers didn’t make the short trip to Vermont) as a way of validating his earlier change of heart about same-sex marriage. Mayor Sanders’ love for his daughter is genuine and heartfelt, and he readily admits that his change of heart was based on emotion for his daughter, rather than any social, legal, or religious perspective. However, this emotion-based testimony proves our point: a court of law is not the forum for Mayor Sanders to push his views. The place for Mayor Sanders’ position to have any relevance was during the campaign, not in this courtroom. Since when does the constitutionality of a measure hinge on how a single local mayor feels about his daughter? The only conclusion I can reach is that the plaintiffs are attempting to make an emotional rather than a legal argument to invalidate Prop 8. Emotion is about the only thing they’re focusing on, witness after witness.
Oh my. First clarification: the Sanders family was still in California. Second clarification: Sanders actually testified that his daughter did not affect his decision to change his mind. Here’s the testimony as transcribed on the Prop 8 Trial Tracker:
Did you daughter talk you into signing the resolution?
No. Quite to the contrary. She understood the civil unions position, and understood the political reality. She thought it was important that I be reelected.
H: What convinced you to sign the resolution?
S: I struggled for a long time since I took the position. But the night before that video, I invited some LGBT friends over to tell them I was going to veto. I was shocked at the hurt that they showed when I told them. One friend said that we interact with you as a family. They felt that their children deserved married parents. I could see the harm that I would do with the veto. This was a night not about politics, but about the depth of their emotions. That created part of the emotion in the video. I realized how much it hurt for them.
As for the fact that much of the testimony has been emotionally charged, I think Pugno was not paying enough attention during Dr. Meyer’s testimony last week. Dr. Meyer spoke at length about the negative impacts of stigma on the mental health of gays and lesbians. The emotional impact on its own might not make a compelling legal argument, but the consequences of that impact do. Of course, Pugno wouldn’t want to remind anybody of this point; his sole intent is to paint a picture of futility for the plaintiffs. Maybe he should go to art school.
Will emotion and “hurt feelings” be enough for this judge to overturn the will of the people and be the first court in the nation to declare a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage? Time will tell. But the body blows that we’re striking in our outstanding cross examination will make a compelling case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where legal experts predict this case will finally land.
Body blows? Really? When your opponents are trying to demonstrate the consequences of the law you’re defending (including hate crimes), your metaphor of choice is “body blows”?
I just have to say that having read all of the cross examination, I think this claim is pathetically overreaching. The experts have tactfully responded to the near-interrogations of the defense’s counsel, conceding nothing of value (unless you hide, like Pugno does, the relevant testimony that invalidates the points the defense is trying to make). The words “striking,” “outstanding,” and “compelling” are laughable. If the cross-examinations are “body blows,” then the expert witnesses are “sea urchins.”
As for this afternoon’s testimony, it was replete with dense statistics about the impact of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, the first country to legalize it in 2001. Their expert witness, Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute at UCLA and same-sex marriage advocate, testified that same-sex marriage has no impact on opposite-sex marriage in the Netherlands.
But on cross examination by our lead trial counsel Charles Cooper, the witness had to admit that, since the legalization of same-sex marriage in that country, there has been an increase in the rate of children born out of wedlock and the number of single-parent families, and that the rate of opposite-sex marriage has declined. On re-direct questioning by plaintiff lawyer David Boies, the witness testified that these trends were in place before same-sex marriage was legalized.
I should point out that the statistics didn’t seem to get dense until Cooper got a hold of them and tried to mangle them in bizarre ways that fit his case. P8TT took a look at some of the data in question, and I’ll share more analysis about the defense’s use of these numbers in my roundup later. I don’t know why Pugno bothered to share that last point, because it reveals that everything else he just said is wrong. It’s refreshing to see him include a point that doesn’t serve his own interest; he must not have proofread.
The afternoon’s take away: the impact of same-sex marriage is an evolving social experiment and it is fully within reason for Californians to retain the traditional definition of marriage while the Netherlands—and any other state in our nation – throw the deck of cards in the air and see where they land. Californians are well within their right to choose not to be the guinea pigs for this social experiment.
Social experiment? Is this a lead-up to calling us Nazis? I feel like there’s just a little insinuation of Godwin’s Law going on there.
Actually, the take away is that there is plenty of research that shows there are no valid reasons for not moving forward with marriage equality. The experiment has been totally flawless everywhere else, with plenty of evidence (especially out of Massachusetts) demonstrating this. Pugno wants you to see the cards in the air and a mess afterward. The only mess of cards is the defense’s strategy.