Well, today we get back to business. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what nonsense Andy Pugno comes up with this week; it can actually be fun to reply to. Plus, before the week’s out, we’ll see the defense’s approach to the trial and what their “expert” witnesses have to say.
This morning I just want to bring your attention to a few more articles that I think are worth reading, but I’ll be brief about them (except one).
» Edge brings us a brief glimpse into how some of the plaintiffs are feeling one week into the trial: Prop 8 plaintiff reflects upon trial’s first week
» Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake reflects upon Friday’s proceedings and the vastly different ways that Matthew McGill (for the plaintiffs) and David Thompson (for the defense) approached their questioning of expert witness, Dr. Michael Lamb. She points out some key excerpts from the day that show just how incompetent Thompson seemed to be in trying to twist science to support his side. It’s definitely a worthwhile read: Prop 8 Trial: A Tale of Two Lawyers
» While a lot of folks have been speculating how the Supreme Court might eventually rule on this case, an article in the Los Angeles Times this morning looks at Judge Walker’s history, and it turns out he’s been pretty gay friendly in the past! Check it out: Same-sex marriage Judge Vaughn Walker has dealt with other gay rights cases
» Curious as to what to expect from today’s testimony? Firedoglake’s got a preview. It should be another interesting day! Prop 8 Trial: Tuesday 1/19 Witness Preview
» Law dork Chris Geidner gives us a look at week 2 and ponders why there’s a trial as opposed to a summary judgment. While many gay activists are optimistic about the potential implications of this case, he’s not so sure. Even if there’s a ruling that favors marriage equality, it might still only have implications for California because of how it might get deemed unconstitutional. If you’re into thinking about things from the legal perspective, check out his post: Perry: Week Two
Now, the legal aspect is important, but this other new post really has me kind of upset.
There’s this other site out there right now called “Prop 8 On Trial,” and it’s written by two Berkeley law students who are actively following the trial and offering their analysis. That’s all well and good. As I wrote yesterday, this trial needs publicity.
Their new post, however, is about the question of whether homosexuality is a choice, and they approach it only as a legal question. That seems to translate into simply weighing opinions and beliefs. They discuss the question like it’s still up for grabs, and not in the most respectful light, asking: “Can homosexuality be prevented?” [NOTE: This morning the post has been tweaked to be slightly more appropriate by asking “How do people become gay?” with some other tweaks in the quotes below. My concerns are unchanged.]
This bothers me because it’s not objective. It assume that homosexuality is a defect, and a negative one. Would anyone ever ask the question, “Can heterosexuality be prevented?” [The same is still true for “How do people become straight?”] No. Such an idea would never be considered. But these two law students treat homosexuality as if it’s still some big mystery that hasn’t been researched and which nobody understands:
In these ways, Perry is a novel airing of nearly a century of American anxiety about the source of homosexuality and its transmission. There seems implicit in this culture a question of: How can we control homosexuality? How can we contain it? What’s more, tracing this history is instructive, because it reveals the origin of many gay stereotypes and helps place the current same-sex marriage debate in the context of an argument that has been simmering for at least the last 60 years.
The source? Its transmission? Control? Contain? Those are the kinds of questions we should be asking about religion. Variations in sexual orientation are not up for grabs, and it’s upsetting to be reminded that it may be upon the plaintiffs to prove this point. In other words, the court gets to decide whether modern knowledge of human development is “right,” based upon opinions and beliefs. It seems Judge Walker is a pretty rational thinker, unlike these two law students:
Perhaps many of these stereotypes could be relegated to a painful but irrelevant recounting of the history of American gay culture if everyone believed what gay rights advocates have been saying for years: That people are not turned gay; they’re born gay. The problem is that a lot of people don’t believe that.
Perry plaintiffs have also testified exactly to that. “I’m proud to be gay. I’m a natural-born gay,” plaintiff Paul Katami declared on the first day of trial.
Yet for much of the country, the matter is just not that simple. How gay men and lesbian women come to exist is an age-old inquiry whose answer still baffles scientists and divides the American public…
“For much of the country?” What else do they need? It’s quite offensive, really, this notion that other people’s intuition is better judgment than our knowledge of ourselves. And I can promise you that there are no gay folks who are baffled or divided. Are we gays, with our agenda, still so untrustworthy that you doubt us when we explain how we experience our identities to you?
Actually, I’m starting to have some doubts about you straight people. Could you go take this questionnaire (written in 1972) and help me feel a little more comfortable around you?
Even if American opinion is changing, it is curious that the Perry defense is not addressing this issue more head-on. Why don’t they overtly say that homosexuality begets homosexuality? Are they afraid that doing so implicitly embraces the unpopular – a statement that they want to limit the number of people who are gay? It seems obvious that this is their point. Then again, this is certainly an unwelcome view in the San Francisco courtroom, where giggles emanate every time an attorney asks a gay witnesses if there’s some chance that he might be mistaken about his sexual orientation. However, the importance of the issue seems clear even to the plaintiffs, who repeatedly question their own witnesses about whether gay couples can be good parents and raise heterosexual adults. The implicit message behind these questions is that anxiety about the origins of homosexuality must be addressed.
This is certainly an unwelcome view in the San Francisco courtroom, where giggles emanate every time an attorney asks a gay witnesses if there’s some chance that he might be mistaken about his sexual orientation. But according to US history and broader current opinion, it does not seem an outlandish stance. Until the country is confident that homosexuality is both natural and beyond influence, those who want to prevent same-sex marriage will be able to summon and rely upon an American cultural tradition that is both ambivalent about the homosexual phenomenon and perhaps fearful that the current gay population is only the beginning.
And according to US history and broader current opinion, it does not seem an outlandish stance. Until the country is confident that homosexuality is both natural and beyond influence, those who want to prevent same-sex marriage will be able to summon and rely upon an American cultural tradition that is both ambivalent about the homosexual phenomenon and perhaps fearful that the current gay population is only the beginning. In short, the public is still asking: How do people become gay?
Actually, the reason the defense probably isn’t overtly saying homosexuality begets homosexuality is because THEY’D BE OVERTLY WRONG. There are piles of scientific evidence collected by decades of psychologists demonstrating the opposite. The few verified theories we have about possible causes of homosexuality do show some genetic components (see video below), but there’s nothing that demonstrates inheritance.
The more important point is that the question of “how?” or “why?” is totally irrelevant. All that matters is Is sexual orientation an immutable characteristic? and ALL evidence points to YES for all sexual orientations (including you breeders out there!). That’s surely why the plaintiffs are using experts to hammer this home.
It seems poor Amanda and Sarah might have been sucked into the defense’s anti-science agenda, though I appreciate that they at least made a few tweaks to their post since it went up last night (and I’m generally glad they’re blogging about the trial). Apparently though, as long as a perspective is popular or long-held, it’s still considered a valid opinion. If this is how our new generation of law students are being encouraged to think, I’m very worried about our future. Ladies, please go read Marcy Wheeler’s post that I linked to above. It’s still much more informed than yours is. I’ve also included a short video below that might help address some of your doubt.
In the meantime, keep writing the way you’re writing and I’m sure plenty of LGBT folks will swarm to your blog to let you know how insensitive you sound by talking about gay people like we’re some race of mutants.