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

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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.

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