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

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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.

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There are 5 Comments to "Why You Should Absolutely Care About The Prop 8 Trial (And How!)"

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zack Ford, Zack Ford. Zack Ford said: ZFb – Why You Should Absolutely Care About The Prop 8 Trial (And How!) – http://is.gd/6xBIq – #prop8 #noh8 #lgbt #glbt #p2 #protectmarriage [...]

  • Nicholas Svara says:

    Zack, I read your musings thanks to you being part of the Planet Atheism blogroll.  Since I’m a fellow freethinker, not a member of the LGBT community, I wanted to point out that you deserve support from that community as well.  My rallying cry on equality has always been, and will always be, that there is no argument against same sex marriage that cannot be made against most “socially acceptable” marriages.

    Marriage is for the purpose of having children?  Well, my wife’s tubes are tied, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  Same-sex marriage leads down the slippery slope to legal prostitution?  Marriages have often been an attempt to “get into” wealth – and if reality-TV show “The Bachelor” doesn’t show “socially acceptable” marriage being legalized prostitution, I don’t know what does.  And let’s not ignore the pedophilia claim, which is a long-standing tradition of “marriage for breeding”, after all.  Of course, if laws are being made because of homosexuality being “against God”, then I’m in the exact same boat for my atheism.

    This is a fantastic, fantastic opportunity for the LGBT community, and nothing would make me happier than to see you and all your friends and loved ones have the same rights.  But anyone who sees your blog as a “freethinker” and ignores these proceedings as not affecting them should take a moment to consider just how similar our communities are.

  • ZackFord says:

    Thank you for your comment Nicholas!

    I think it is an important point to make. I know that many turn to my blog for my critical look at religion and exploration of atheist identities, and certainly during the course of this trial, my attention will be diverted away from those issues. Still, my posts will continue to come up on Planet Atheism, and I hope that they are still looked at in the same light.

    What has been striking is the extent to which science is really on trial here. Many have been drawing comparisons with the Scopes Monkey Trial for just this reason (take a look at Friday’s proceedings!). In my mind, atheists and freethinkers should consider gay rights as an issue as important as evolution. Both boil down to facts vs. beliefs—scientific understanding vs. superstitious delusion.

    I hope your comment encourages other freethinkers to regard this case with the same interest. This trial is not just about LGBT rights; it’s about human understanding and freedom from religion. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you’ll consider offering more comments and feedback in the future!

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by zackford: I can’t believe the #prop8 tag is being dominated by anti-gay spinners like the ADF. Come on LGBT activists! Speak up! http://is.gd/6xBIq

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