Friday, January 22, 2010

Prop8 on trial: the end of week 2

Thursday, examination of Dr Segura continued (it started Wednesday, described here.) The defense tried to show that because some famous people support gays, that the community has power. It also said that there are churches that support gays, so you cannot blame churches. The defense attorney also tried to claim that GLBT people were winning battles on adoption, etc, but had to be corrected/reminded of setbacks in Arkansas and Florida. He also ranged over claims of violence against prop8 proponents (although as the witness pointed out, reports that made no attempt to gather evidence of violence in the opposite direction are intellectually dishonest).

The redirect was very effective. Despite the defense's attempt to say that just as many faith groups were pro- as opposed to Prop8, it was brought forward that the groups opposed are very small and comparatively powerless. But here was the kicker (from the transcript)

So imagine for a moment that I was going to write an opinion that says gays and lesbians are powerful in the political system. So I go and I survey the world and I survey the literature and I say, Well, the FBI suggests that gays and lesbians are experiencing increasing levels of violence and represent 70 percent or more of the hate-inspired murders. Could I see that and still conclude that the group is powerful? Well, conceivably, because there are other factors.

Could I look at the circumstances around the country and say, Well, in 29 states gays and lesbians could still be dismissed without cause for their identity from their source of employment, that they enjoy no protections. Could I observe that and still conclude that the group was powerful? Well, possibly.

Could I observe that even small statutory protections designed to redress previous disadvantages have been challenged at the ballot box over 150 times, and gays and lesbians lose those more than 70 percent of the time, and still conclude that the group is powerful? Presumably.

Could I look at the enactment of statutory -- excuse me, constitutional exclusion and establishment as excluded from a civil institution as a citizen that is separate -- that is treated separately from all other citizens, and conclude that the group is powerful?

I could conceivably observe one or maybe two of those things and still decide that there's other evidence to suggest that the group is powerful. To observe all of those things and to conclude that gays and lesbians have the political power to protect their basic rights in the political system would be the political science equivalent of malpractice. I -- I couldn't possibly draw that conclusion.
Dr William Tam (Witness #12) testified on THursday. He sparred quite a bit with the attorney. Tam is a Prop8 proponent, who worked with the Protect Marriage group, and did outreach into the Chinese Evangelical community. He tried to withdraw from his role as a defendent intervenor (see my previous trial post, for a fuller description). Despite the defense's efforts to paint Tam as relatively separate from the main Prop8 group, it was very clear he was one of them. He's got the most biased, loony views imaginable. He stated that San Francisco is run by gays, that the "gay agenda" includes legal prostitution and sex with children. That marriage equality in other countries has led to legalization of sibling marriages and polygamy. He quotes actual lies, about gays abusing children, and about the nature of homosexuality--basically the most inflammatory stuff you can read on the internet, all of it disproven. HE considers NARTH (a discredited "reparative therapy" group) more reliable than the American Psychological association. And he buys into the whole "recruiting" notion: a direct quote,
Social moral decay, what it means -- what mean is if same-sex marriage is legal, it would encourage children to explore same sex as their future marriage partner.
Read more about Tam here.

Friday's witness #13, Dr Gregory Herek, testified on the nature of homosexuality, its scientific definition, and the current state of knowledge. The cross-examination was really hard to take, because the defense attorneys focused to agonizing degree on how the definition of homosexuality is somewhat fluid, how some people experience partners of both sexes (generally when coming to terms with their sexuality) and included a quote that said,
one could seriously doubt that sexual orientation is a serious concept at all.
They cherry picked quotations and even cited the writings of Freud! (ca. 1935) to make their case, and the witness kept coming back to context of the quotes nadthe studies.

Their plan is to show that homosexuality is completely mutable, a choice. If it isn't definable as a class, then it's not qualified for "suspect class" status, which is one of the two arguments our side is putting forward to justify equal protection. (Race is pretty complex too, but that qualifies.) The reasoning is a bit circular, because if gays don't exist, why would you have laws against them?

I know that for gay people listening (or rather, reading the live-blogs) this was incredible hard to take and hurtful, it's like they were trying to deny our very being. We know their job is to attack us, but this is horrible. The redirect tried to bring it back to accepted scientific principles that for MOST GLBT people, it's NOT a choice.

The concluding questions tried to bring it back:
Q: If two women want to marry, are they lesbians?

A: Yes

Q: If two men want to marry, are they gay men?

A: Yes
Meanwhile, NOM and others consider this trial just a stepping stone to carving their bigotry into supreme court precedent. At some level, they don't care if they lose.

And in Wyoming, an anti-bullying banner saying "No Place for Hate" is removed from schools because it was co-sponsored by a GLBT organization. (Remember, Wyoming is where Matthew Shepard was murdered). So I guess it is a place to hate, as long as you hate GLBT people. And at Notre Dame, the school paper publishes a cartoon making fun of gay bashing (read the comments to this article only if you have a strong stomach).

My summaries rely on the outstanding live-blogging and analysis from these sites, but any errors are my own.

Full trial transcripts are now available from AFER.

All my previous posts on this trial are here.


JCF said...

It also said that there are churches that support gays, so you cannot blame churches.

And can those "churches that support gays" in California currently marry them?

This is Insane Troll Logic!

PseudoPiskie said...

The witnesses, especially Herek were amazing. Their answers were cool no matter what the defense asked over and over and over and over and over. The judge has a great sense of humor.

Can't wait for next week and the defense witnesses. I would not want to be one tho I assume they are so thoroly convinced of their right(eous)ness that they have no fear of exposing their lies and prejudice for all the world to see.