Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts on the end of the testimony in the Prop 8 Trial

The live blogger from Firedoglake gives his thoughts at the end of the testimony.

Now the testimony phase of the Prop 8 Trial has ended, the covers have been pulled back on the motives and operations of the proponents of Prop 8. While we had an entire Prop 8 political campaign in 2008, and since then a court case to the California Supreme Court, it is only in the federal trial that a spotlight has shined on the animus and motivations of the people who want to restrict the civil marriage rights of gays and lesbians.

Whenever someone asks me “how was it?” to sit through almost every minute of opening arguments and testimony, and cross examination, I flash on poor Mary Todd: “Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Because while there were some spectacular moments from David Boies as he exposed the pitiful non-expertise of both the remaining witnesses the Defendant-Intervenors called, and some real humor from Judge Vaughn Walker — my most vivid memory from those twelve days will always be the realization that, for the proponents of Prop 8, gays and lesbians have quite enough power right now. We should be happy with what we have. And stop demanding more.

Because gays and lesbians have political allies (only a few of those named at trial actually support full marriage rights) and because we are featured in television shows (even though the Ellen and Will & Gracesitcoms are long gone) and because we have disposable income (we do?!) and because we are, at long last, federally protected from violent hate crimes, we should be content.

We should be content that politicians march in our festive Pride parades, and that some gays & lesbians get elected to office here and there, and that the President speaks to national meetings of our moneyed leadership. We should be content that the Congress might actually take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t-Ask/Don’t-Tell discrimination against those actively serving in the military. Because, somehow, having our issues discussed and debated in public (whether legislation is actually passed or not) denotes just about enough power — power that gays & lesbians should be very happy to have.

We should be content that some states let us marry; we should be happy that some states let us adopt; we should be pleased that some states let us foster kids. And we should be ecstatic that some states even let us contract in some odd, cobbled together, frequently rewritten, specially designed but not at all clearly understood unit called Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships. The fact that we are second-class citizens in the constitutions of more than twenty states should not matter, because, well, Barney Frank chairs the House Banking Committee!


After a while of this — and it was the primary argument of the Defendant-Intervenors — it was easier to turn off my brain and type what they said without actually processing any of it. As I go back and read some of the liveblogging, I am amazed that I really don’t recall a lot of it. It just went from my ears to my fingertips, without actually engaging my brain.

Because it was so toxic, so painful, so absurd — would be the alleged promiscuity of gay men somehow redefine marriage for all men? Would children essentially be snatched from loving opposite-marriage homes, to be placed with single gay or lesbian parents, or with same-sex couples? Would boys want to marry princes, or girls princesses? Would daughters want to have sex with other girls since they couldn’t get dates with boys, and gay marriage made same-sex relationships seem okay? And would the never-changed institution of marriage — the same exact institution through all of human history, apparently — withstand this new assault?

And who would teach the sons of lesbian parents how to change the car’s oil?

When we reached that absurdity, it was like a thunderbolt for me. I had already realized they wanted to repeal The Enlightenment, they had no basic understanding of the scientific method, and they did not grasp logic at its root. But when we were told, finally, that prohibiting same-sex marriage was really about learning how to change your car’s oil, I understood: no argument is too silly, no underpinnings are too fundamentalist, no religiosity is too cloying. These people will use any illogic they can grab hold of in an attempt to impose their values and morals and religious code on others.

Because their religious code is best for them, it must be best for you and me. That, in essence, is all they have: that they know best for all of us. And that we’d better pay attention and model American civil institutions on their religious beliefs.

That’s it. That’s what they want.

But in our pluralistic multicultural democracy, we simply cannot allow them to have that. It just won’t work. Unless we want America to become the Republic of Gilead, this movement of theirs must be stopped, right here and right now.

Thank you for the opportunity to “turn the lights on” during the past three weeks. (And yes, I know — the video has some factual inaccuracies about who exactly turned off the cameras. But it’s cute, huh?) I will be back at the federal courthouse in San Francisco for closing arguments (watch FDL for that announcement, expected in March or perhaps April) and of course for Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling following those closing arguments.

Please keep an eye on the FDL Prop 8 Hub for more news going forward. All our Prop 8 liveblogging is there, in case you missed any of it. Additionally, there is some great analysis by several of our thoughtful FDL writers, among them David Dayen, Marcy Wheeler, bmaz, Peterr, egregious, and Lisa Derrick.

And, finally, please support our efforts if you can. Every little bit helps.

{Video from Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s company HitRECord, via Towleroad and Julia Rosen at the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker}

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