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Archives – February, 2010

Trial Reenactment: Day 2 Part IV and V

By Julia Rosen

Episodes IV and V from Day 2 of the trial reenactments by are below.

Please feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss whatever is on your mind.

26 Comments February 17, 2010

Sit Down and Shut Up

by Brian Leubitz

Go back into your closet. Why can’t you just keep up the pretense of being “normal?” Why do you have to shove your “relationships” in our face?

ProtectMarriage and their ilk are itching to move back into the pre-Stonewall era. Where the LGBT community hid in the shadows, scared of being beaten to a pulp, or losing everything, their jobs, their families, and everything they had worked for. In a recent email they sent out to their email list, they hone their newly found victim status.

Aggressive protests like the one aimed at a 96-year-old community volunteer are, unfortunately, all too representative of the type of intimidation and harassment that has consistently been demonstrated by the homosexual marriage movement during and since the Proposition 8 campaign. In fact, the examples of harassment are so extensive and have become so well documented (they were chronicled in this report by The Heritage Foundation) that they have begun to be mentioned by various commentators, experts and courts, including the United States Supreme Court.

I documented some of the issues with the Heritage Foundation’s report yesterday, mostly that they completely excluded all evidence of threats and attacks against marriage equality activists. With respect to this 96-year-old, when Mayor Ron Dellums appointed Lorenzo Hoopes, a prominent supporter of Prop 8, to a non-profit board of directors, the appointment was bound to be scrutinized. In a democracy, the people of the community are allowed, and should be encouraged to seek out government appointees that share their values. In Oakland, Mr. Hoopes values of inequality were repugnant to the community. No matter what the appointee’s age or situation, the community is entitled to representation.

But, here’s the thing that seems to go completely unsaid by the Heritage Report, or in the traditional media, is that many of the instances of problems involve considerable provocation. Take the story of the 69-year old who was filmed getting her giant cross knocked out of her hands. (You can see the video below the fold.) She was attending a protest against the passage of Prop 8 at the Palm Springs City Hall. Emotions were raw as people had just had their rights taken away from them. Certainly, even the most vehement supporter could understand such emotions of loss.

But for this woman, she decided that they LGBT community hadn’t had quite enough. There was a dueling protest at the City Hall. The pro-Prop 8 group was across the street. A little insensitive and sore-winner-ish, but fine, free speech is important to our country. However, this lady decided that she needed to be on the TV cameras waving her cross directly in the face of the marriage equality activists. It was provocative and extremely offensive. While making physical contact is completely unacceptable, this woman was clearly trying to get on the news.

For years, the LGBT community, and the general population, has been hounded by Topeka, KS “minister” Fred Phelps. He protests the LGBT community at every possible occasion, appropriate or not. At any public funeral for a soldier, there’s Fred Phelps, telling the soldier’s family that the soldier died for the sins of the gays.

Think of it in a different situation, what would happen if a person strolled into the mega church service held in the Prop 8 campaign at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego chanting offensive messages?

In a shared community, we are expected to give some thought for others, to have some consideration. While we should maintain peaceful protests, it is hard to understand how this woman’s story should be considered any evidence of a greater conspiracy against Prop 8 supporters. Unfortunately, provocateurs often get what they desire.

In the end, ProtectMarriage just wants you to sit down and shut up. To hide in your closet. That is not acceptable any more. We must go forth and be bold. However, we must recognize that their will be provocateurs in our path. We must not fall into their traps.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. – Martin Luther King, Jr.


290 Comments February 17, 2010

Ken Starr Leaving California: Good Riddance

By Julia Rosen

Ken Starr is leaving Pepperdine University, where he has served as Dean of the law school and moving to Baylor University to become their president. They are evidently very excited to have him. From the Advocate:

The chair of the Baylor University regents called Starr an “ideal” choice to lead the school because of “his dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian faith,” according to a statement on the university’s website.

Ken Starr is perhaps best known for his role as the independent investigator that got former President Clinton to state “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” But those who have been closely involved with the fight for marriage equality will remember that he joined the Prop 8 legal team as the case went to the California Supreme Court. He was the one who first came out arguing that the state should forcibly divorce 18,000 California couples, including our very own Brian Leubitz and his husband Brian Devine (and just for the record I was in attendance and their wedding was “THE picnic event of the mid-September time period in all of the western portion of Berkeley’s Tilden Park.”)

Starr’s attempt to forcibly divorce those couples inspired a Courage Campaign project that came to be known as Fidelity. It culminated in the video below, which I am sure many of you will remember. But not many people know how it all started.

On a Friday night, one of my co-workers Lilia Tamm came up with a brainstorm: what if we asked couples, their friends and family to take a picture of themselves holding signs that started with “Please Don’t Divorce…”. I immediately picked up the phone and called Brian to ask him if he could convince the other Brian to pose for a picture with a sign. They ended up sending us a wonderful image of the two of them, their pugs and their Christmas tree and Hanukah menorah. We used it as the example picture for an email we sent out the next day.

Eventually we were able to turn it into a moving video, thanks to the amazing Regina Spektor for letting us use her song Fidelity, and the video has now been seen more than 1.3 million times on YouTube and Vimeo.

And here is the original picture of Brian and Brian that started it all…

The full Flickr set is here.

161 Comments February 16, 2010

Disclosure is What Makes Democracy Work

by Brian Leubitz

My day job involves a lot of work with political campaigns in California. The one thing that I’ve learned more clearly in my years of doing this sort of work is that you can never underestimate the importance of money in politics. It’s why I and the Calitics Editorial Board joined an amicus brief supporting the federal campaign finance legislation in the now infamous Citizens United case. But now that campaign finance regulations providing limits are virtually gone these days, transparency becomes the only hope for our democracy.

In elections, this means that we must provide information to the public on who is paying for the political campaigns they are seeing. Even if we can’t stop any one individual or organization giving huge sums, at the very least we should know who is paying for these messages. Yet, a Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) commissioner, Ronald D. Rotunda, feels differently. He’s a professor at the notoriously conservative Chapman Law School, a Cato Institute Fellow, and served on Kenn Starr’s witchhunt investigation of President Bill Clinton. Apparently, Mr. Rotunda read the Heritage Foundation’s notoriously biased reports of a few random acts of stupidity against Prop 8 signs, and now feels it is just too dangerous to expose Prop 8 donors to sunlight.

In Bowen, the plaintiffs are two committees that supported Proposition 8 – a ballot measure that bans gay marriage. The issue in Bowen relates to free speech, not gay marriage. California law requires these committees to disclose the names of individuals who donated $100 or more to support Proposition 8, and also their street address, occupation and name of employer. The committees resist disclosure because their donors have said they will not contribute in the future because of the harassment they have already received because of prior disclosures.

People have a constitutional right to support (or oppose) Proposition 8. Yet some have urged their followers (as one Web page put it) to “take action against those who want to deny us our equal rights,” and “fight back.” Sadly, some people have taken this request literally. Donors who already have been disclosed have suffered threatening phone calls and e-mails, sometimes accompanied by death threats. These death threats are even more intimidating because of the compelled disclosure of the donors’ street addresses.

Donors have seen their pro-Proposition 8 signs stolen, windows broken and property vandalized with spray paint, cars keyed. Employers who did not contribute to Proposition 8 have been blacklisted because their employees contributed. In some cases, employees have been forced to resign their jobs. (Sacramento Bee op-ed)

The first problem that I see at this point is the aggrandizement of the threat that Prop 8 donors are facing. A few signs were stolen and there was some minor property damage. Of course, the Heritage Foundation’s report conveniently forgot to include the hate crimes against LGBT Californians inspired by the fear that was being stirred up by Prop 8, the threats that students received when they publicly opposed Prop 8, and the general anxiety of Prop 8 opponents who live outside of the Coastal Bubble. After all, how often have we all seen “faggot” spray painted on a car or house of a member of the LGBT community? Or heard stories of bullying of LGBT students? Or seen monstrous hate crimes?

I want to absolutely condemn any vandalization of property, personal attacks or threats against any political activist, no matter what political persuasion. While I don’t want to make light of the sheer stupidity of some people, the threats faced by Prop 8 supporters absolutely pail in comparison to what LGBT Californians face every single day. And during the Prop 8 campaign, it was that much stronger. Yet, the No on 8 Campaign disclosed campaign donations.

Furthermore, the group is as guilty of threats as any other group. During the campaign, they sent letters to big No on 8 donors demanding money or they will be “publicly exposed.”

“Make a donation of a like amount to which will help us correct this error,” reads the letter. “Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. … The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to but have given to Equality California will be published.”

The letter was signed by four members of the group’s executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, the lawyer for A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published. (AP)

What’s good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander, I suppose. Ron Prentice and Andy Pugno personally signed letters threatening No on 8 Donors whose names were disclosed. Now they don’t want their donors made public. I think I would be slandering the word hypocrisy by labeling this series of logical contortions hypocritical.

As to “employees have been forced to resign their jobs,” blocking disclosure brings up some very troubling notions to the fore. The Yes on 8 team argues that they shouldn’t be forced to disclose because it is speech. Yet it’s not important enough speech for the donors to say it publicly. If a company or an employee wants to say that they don’t think that their customers are entitled to equal rights, say that publicly. And your customers can decide if they want to patronize your business.

If government-compelled disclosure results in private parties harassing those who have a different view of gay marriage, then the First Amendment steps in. It prevents the government from aiding those who disagree in a most disagreeable way.

And this is the crux of Rotunda’s argument, from his perch at the FPPC, he feels that disclosure is simply too risky. After all, signs were stolen and a car was keyed! To Rotunda, that risk far outweighs the public’s interest in knowing who is trying to orchestrate the first popular vote campaign to take away rights from a minority in this country’s history.

To most of the rest of the country, disclosure is an important public interest. They say sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. It’s telling that the Prop 8 campaign is trying to stay in the shadows at every turn.

111 Comments February 16, 2010

Always Fighting

by Brian Leubitz

During the testimony of Dr. Gary Segura, one of the things he explained was that despite whatever gains we have made, the LGBT communicty is constantly fighting to keep them. To paraphrase Dr. Segura, political power is not only the ability to gain victories but also the ability to maintain them. Some groups easily make their past victories a step towards future gains. For us, we must constantly defend everything.

An example is the New Hampshire marriage legislation that was signed into law last year. A representative is now trying to repeal that measure, and throwing in some pretty vile attacks just for kicks.

The New Hampshire House will take up Wednesday two measures that attempt to repeal the state’s six-week-old gay marriage law, the AP reported.

One bill would repeal the gay marriage law approved by lawmakers last year, while the second defines marriage as a heterosexual union in the New Hampshire Constitution, effectively banning gay marriage and blocking the state Supreme Court from taking action. …

State Representative Nancy Elliott touched off a loud debate in the blogosphere after video of her testimony condemning gay sex at the hearing was posted on The video was quickly taken down.(On Top Magazine

We must constantly defend that which we have while looking to improve our status. This is our lot. But it also means that there is a real reason why the courts can, and should, step in. They are charged with the task of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority. In this case, we have seen a political system that doesn’t seem up to the task of protecting minority rights. Striking down Prop 8 would be a valid and justified use of the judiciary’s power of review.

233 Comments February 15, 2010

Trial Re-enactment: Day 2 Parts II and III

By Julia Rosen

Hey everyone. Please consider this an open thread to talk about whatever is on your minds this fine President’s Day.

Here are parts II and III from Day 2 of the re-enactments.

22 Comments February 15, 2010

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