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American Foundation for Equal Rights rounds up the first week of the Prop 8 trial

Weekly Summary

By Eden James

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization that assembled the legal team challenging Prop 8 in court, has released a summary of the first week of the trial.

If you’ve only been able to catch bits and pieces of the proceedings, this should help you get caught up relatively quickly before the trial begins again on Tuesday morning.

Check it out:


Ten witnesses, including Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and five eminent experts, clearly and convincingly demonstrated critical points in the federal trial on the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8 during its opening week:

• Marriage is vitally important in American society;

• By denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry, Proposition 8 causes grievous harm to the plaintiffs and other gay men and lesbians throughout California, and adds yet another chapter to the long history of discrimination they have suffered;

• Proposition 8 perpetrates irreparable, immeasurable and discriminatory harm for no good reason.


The court also viewed video footage from the deposition of William Tam. Tam is one of the five Official Proponents of Prop. 8, and as such was personally responsible for putting it on the ballot and for intervening in this case to take over the defense of the initiative.

The video footage of his deposition included statements from Tam such as this one, from a pro-Prop. 8 email he wrote: “They lose no time in pushing the gay agenda — after legalizing same-sex marriage, they want to legalize prostitution. What will be next? On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children.”

Please see for additional quotes and details.


The backers of Prop. 8 told the court this week that they were dropping four witnesses from their witness list, leaving only two. They claimed this was due to a reluctance to testify because of cameras in the courtroom. The trial, however, is not being broadcast. Attorneys for the plaintiffs note that their depositions of the withdrawn experts, which would form the basis for their cross-examinations, resulted in the experts making admissions that disagreed with the backers of Prop. 8’s case, which is what actually led to the last-minute witness list reduction.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys this week introduced video of the deposition of Loren Marks of Louisiana State University, who had been expected to testify for the defendants that the ideal family structure is for children to be raised by two married “biological” parents, which Marks said meant the genetic parents.

Marks admitted that he only read parts of the studies he relied upon in making his conclusion. It was then pointed out that those studies actually defined “biological” parents in a way that included adoptive parents — not just genetic parents. Marks then stated that the word “biological” should be deleted from the report he prepared for this case, and also admitted he considered no research on gay and lesbian parents, effectively revealing his research as fatally flawed.


The trial began with an emotional and compelling opening statement by Theodore Olson, who with David Boies is leading the legal team assembled by the American Foundation for Equal Rights to litigate Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Olson and Boies notably faced off in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that decided the presidency.

“This case is about marriage and equality,” Olson said. “Plaintiffs are being denied both the right to marry, and the right to equality under the law. The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as ‘one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;’ a ‘basic civil right;’ a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.”

Olson’s full opening statement can be found here:


The court then heard powerful testimony from plaintiffs Zarrillo, Katami, Perry and Stier, who comprise two couples who want to get married but cannot because of Prop. 8.

Boies conducted the direct examination of Zarrillo and Katami.

“The word ‘marriage’ has a special meaning. …If it wasn’t so important, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Zarrillo. “I want to be able to share the joy and the happiness that my parents felt, my brother felt, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, of having the opportunity to be married. It’s the logical next step for us.”

Zarrillo continued, “When someone is married, and whether it’s an introduction with a stranger, whether it’s someone noticing my ring, or something of that nature, it says to them these individuals are serious; these individuals are committed to one another; they have taken that step to be involved in a relationship that one hopes lasts the rest of their life.”

“When you find someone who is not only your best friend but your best advocate and supporter in life, it’s a natural next step for me to want to be married to that person,” said Katami. “I can safely say that if I were married to Jeff, I know that the struggle that we have validating ourselves to other people would be diminished and potentially eradicated.”

Katami continued, “I just want to get married…it’s as simple as that. I love someone. I want to get married. My state is supposed to protect me. It’s not supposed to discriminate against me.”

Olson conducted the direct examination of Perry and Stier.

“I want to marry Sandy. I want to have a stable and secure relationship with her that then we can include our children in,” Perry said. “And I want the discrimination we are feeling with Proposition 8 to end and for a more positive, joyful part of our lives to be begin.”

Perry and Stier have four children.

“Certainly nothing about domestic partnership as an institution — not even an institution, but as a legal agreement — indicates the love and commitment that are inherent in marriage, and it doesn’t have anything to do for us with the nature of our relationship and the type of enduring relationship we want it to be. It’s just a legal document,” Stier said.

“I’m just trying to get the rights that the Constitution already says I have,” she added.

The plaintiffs’ testimony was followed by testimony from eminent experts who demonstrated the history and harm of discrimination, the importance of marriage to individuals, and the fact that allowing people to marry harms no one, and in fact would create benefits.


**Nancy F. Cott, Ph.D, the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University, testified on the history of marriage.

Dr. Cott challenged statements made by attorney Charles Cooper during his opening statement that procreation is the “central and … defining purpose of marriage.” Cooper represents the backers of Prop. 8.

“I would certainly agree it is one of the purposes, but certainly not the central or the defining purpose,” Dr. Cott said. “It’s a surprise to many people to learn that George Washington, who is often called the father of our country, was sterile.”

**George Chauncey, Ph.D, a professor at Yale University, testified about the history of discrimination experienced by gays and lesbians in the United States. Dr. Chauncey testified that the 2008 campaign to pass Prop. 8 played on stereotypes used historically to portray “homosexuals as perverts who prey on young children, [who] entice straight people into sick behavior.”

After viewing several pro-Prop. 8 television ads and videos, Dr. Chauncey said the language and images suggesting the ballot initiative was needed to “protect children” were reminiscent of efforts to “demonize” gay men and lesbians ranging from police raids to efforts to remove gay and lesbian teachers from public schools.

“You have a pretty strong echo of this idea that simple exposure to gay people and their relationships is somehow going to lead a whole generation of young kids to become gay,” Dr. Chauncey said. “The underlying message here is something about the undesirability of homosexuals, that we don’t want our children to become this way.”

**Dr. Letitia Peplau, a Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, testified that there is no evidence to suggest that marriage equality would harm others.

“It is very hard for me to imagine you would have a happily married couple who would say, ‘Gertrude, we have been married for 30 years, but I think we have to throw in the towel because Adam and Stewart down the block got married,” Dr. Peplau said.

**Edmund Egan, Ph.D. Chief Economist for the City and County of San Francisco, testified that Proposition 8 is a drain on government budgets, and that legalizing same-sex marriage would generate significant revenues and increase personal wealth, and would also reduce the burden on government services from people without health insurance and other benefits.

“It’s clear to me that Proposition 8 has a negative material impact,” Dr. Egan said.

**Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, testified about the stigma and prejudice gay and lesbians individuals face in society, saying that they are meant to feel they are “not equal, not respected by my state, my country, my fellow citizens.”

Dr. Meyer said that domestic partnership is not an adequate substitute for marriage, and said he doubted that society places any value on domestic partnership. “I don’t know if it has any social meaning,” Dr. Meyer said. “I think it is clear that young children do not aspire to become domestic partners. But they may desire to become married.”

**Dr. Michael Lamb, a Professor and Head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University told the court, “We have a substantial body of evidence documenting that a child being raised by same-sex parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents,” Lamb testified.

Dr. Lamb also testified (referring to children of gay and lesbian parents) that: “For a significant number of these children, their adjustment would be promoted were their parents able to get married.”


**Helen Zia was the last witness of the week. She is an Asian American author and a lesbian. She testified about her experiences with discrimination, the effects of being denied the right to marry and the importance of being able to be married in 2008.

“My mother, an immigrant from China, she really doesn’t get what ’partner’ is,” Zia said. “Marriage made it very clear that I was family, that we were family, and I was where I belonged.”


Attorneys defending Prop. 8 cross-examined plaintiff witnesses extensively, sometimes lasting several hours, yet accomplished very little. The witnesses were not shaken from their conclusions, their credentials stand, and very few items were actually allowed into evidence. Against eminent researchers, the cross examining attorneys cited Carrie Prejean, “Will and Grace” and studies from 1954.

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  • 1. Ed Callahan  |  January 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    The epidemiologic studies of marriage consistently show that married people live longer than single or divorced individuals. It would seem to me that is another fairly important way that denial of access to marriage harms lesbians and gays.

  • 2. Kira  |  January 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Go, go, go! Seriously, this is a make-or-break case for me when it comes to staying in this state (or even country). California is my home, but I cannot live somewhere that discriminates so harshly against something so natural. Down with the Christian agenda!

  • 3. QStick01  |  January 19, 2010 at 4:14 am

    Kira, it is for those very reasons we remain and fight for equal rights. By leaving and giving up the fight, we abandon the LGBT youth. the 'right wing' often says, 'love it or leave it'. I'm sticking around, and if they don't like it then they can leave. I married in Toronto my Canadian husband in 2007. It would be simple to run to Canada as I am a resident (not citizen) of Canada, however my head and heart will not permit it. I was born in Southern California. I deserve all the rights, freedoms and responsibilities as all other citizens of this state and country, and until I get them or die, I'll fight through dialoguing supporting individuals, groups and organizations that support my rights. Regardless of this outcome, please. Please, PLEASE don't leave us behind. Though it is attractive, don't do it. We need you.

    Peace. Steve

  • 4. QStick01  |  January 19, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Stay strong and show no weakness to those who disagree with your equality. Dialogue. Get people to empathize with your situation and you may very well gain a supporter. It works for me over and over again. Simply explaining to people I come across regarding the fact that my husband, a Canadian, cannot remain in the US simply because our marriage is not federally recognized appalls people. Let them know how this inequality hurts you but through level headed dialogue, and you'll see results. Not everyone will come around. Not everyone will empathize. But so very many will and do. Go for it!

  • 5. Robert Carter  |  January 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Ed, you're right but I thought I remembered seeing that in one of the expert's testimony. There was quite a bit to digest though so I might be mistaken. I was surprised that we didn't call an anthropologist to cite the use of marriage as an initiation into adulthood. Especially reading Mrs. Zia's testimony, where it came out to some extent how important that function of marriage is. Like her, I got married in 08 while it was legal and one of the most striking differences is how I am treated with more respect as a married man. I notice it in daily conversation but I assume it's still studied by anthropologist in such measures as how many families use it to determine who sits at the "kids table" at thanksgiving and, less trivially, insurance discounts given to young male drivers for being married based on the idea that they are more mature.

  • 6. Santa Barbara Mom  |  January 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Is there any way to get these findings published in the newspapers or online? The SB newspaper made mention of one of the defense "experts leaving because he feared retaliation similar to what he experienced during the campaign". So out of context, but it still portrays the opponents of prop 8 in a very negative way. People have got to know about the possible pergury, etc. How and why is it that only the other side makes the news? I find it very frustrating.

  • 7. Rene and Daryl  |  January 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Gay Marriage Trial Back Up On YouTube Tuesday

    After the Supreme Court blocked video broadcast of the federal trial to decide the constitutionality of a gay marriage ban last Wednesday, freelance journalist and filmmaker John Ireland decided he'd produce his own version and post it on YouTube.…

  • 8. Marko Markov  |  January 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    WOW! That's FANTASTIC news!!!! I can't wait!!!!

  • 9. BMc  |  January 18, 2010 at 12:51 am

    This is good news. I was wondering if someone was going to do something like this, Thanks for posting the link!

  • 10. Robert Texter  |  January 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    This almost make it look like this is going to be a walk in the park but I know better if they can't win it they'll stall and pull out the bag of dirty tricks. I'm one of the lucky ones that got married when it was legal. I still have to explain to the dumb that just because Prop * passed doesn't make my marriage go away, I'm still married. I'm waiting on the I was married in CA moved to NV and they won't recongize my marrage there. I guess they will have to stop all out of state marrages in this state now court case.

  • 11. Marlene Bomer  |  January 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    This is the fatal flaw in DOMA. It *blatantly* flies in the face of the Constitution's guarantee of the portability of contracts, which is what a marriage is, essentially. It's sad in that there wasn't an immediate challenge to the law.

  • 12. Matt  |  January 17, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I think the reason that there was no immediate challenge to DOMA was because, at the time of its passage, it wasn't legal for gays to marry in ANY state. Therefore, there were no legally married same-sex couples available to sue over the fact that their marriages weren't recognized in other states, or over the fact that federal law didn't recognize their marriages. Since DOMA didn't ban individual states from recognizing same-sex marriage, the only recourse for couples who wanted to marry was to appeal to their home states.

  • 13. Wade MacMorrighan  |  January 19, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Actually, Matt, DOMA was constructed as a direct response to the Hawaii ruling that allowed for gay couples to legally marry. But, the Fed. gov't fear that they would take those "marriage licenses" (as they call them, sarcastically, in quotes!) to the mainland and sue to get them recognized by the state.

  • 14. Pam  |  January 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    The Prop 8 haters remind me of the Klu Klux Klan. They want to fight so hard to keep the discrimination and deferential treatment alive… as long as it's under the ambiguity of their white sheets. We don't have to see their faces to know who they are.

  • 15. BMc  |  January 18, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I agree.

  • 16. Frank  |  January 18, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Hmmm…I never got my copy of the agenda that Tam talks about. I must have fallen off the mailing list.

  • 17. michael  |  January 18, 2010 at 2:52 am

    May Tam took your copy and that is how he has our whole "agenda"….

  • 18. Jon Evans  |  January 18, 2010 at 6:50 am

    This apparently is our Agenda

  • 19. michael  |  January 18, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Sorry should have read maybe Tam….lol

  • 20. Joseph  |  January 18, 2010 at 6:00 am

    I have been reading with great interest the daily blogs here, and now the summary of the first week. What I read here gives me hope that our side may win. Then, last night I went over to the Protect Marriage site and read their blog, which can be found here:

    I am so confused. Their blog is a complete 180 from ours, and I guess that's to be expected. But what am I to believe? Is the truth somewhere in the middle. Because their blog does not allow comments it makes me think they are sugar-coating here, cherry-picking there, and so on, but it still makes me nervous. Can someone attempt to reconcile what we are reading here versus what they are saying over there? I'd appreciate any feedback at all. Thank you!

  • 21. Andrea  |  January 18, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I've been following live tweets from inside the courtroom all week, from at least six different observers, and this site's transcriptions match them almost word-for-word.

    The other site is flat-out lying, simple as that. If they took comments, there would be links to the real transcripts posted there, and they'd be busted.

    Since you asked, the reason for it is that they are bullies, and they lie like bullies. If they can get you to assume that the truth is anywhere in the middle, you'll believe at least some of their lies, and more importantly, ignore at least some of the truth. Don't fall for it.

  • 22. Andrea  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:13 am

    And please, don't just take my word for it.

    If you know how to do the twitter thing, you can follow along at #prop8. @NCLRights is giving particularly good coverage. Tmb superficial stereotypes alive I guess.

    There is also a real-time twitter aggregator at, where you can follow along while court is in session. I'm going to try a link, wish me luck…

    Hope that worked.

  • 23. Andrea  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Please ignore that sentence about stereotypes… that was from another message I was writing to someone else, pasted in by accident. Oops.

  • 24. Chris  |  January 18, 2010 at 6:12 am

    I was under the impression that this blog, for the most part, was supposed to represent a transcription with comments in it. I haven't read theirs, but I don't think they are transcribing?

  • 25. Jon Evans  |  January 18, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Does anyone recognize this Agenda as being ours?

  • 26. jimig  |  January 18, 2010 at 7:45 am

    As the child of a same sex relationship I have witnessed first hand hatred and often been discriminated by parents, schools and the church. I have rights as a child of a same sex relationship I have 2 sisters all of us are now married and have children. I shouldn't have to worry about how the government or schools define my childrens grand parents. I shouldn't have to worry that 40 years latter my children are facing the same hate and discrimination by the chuch or the schools or the government that I faced. Please stop the madness and show me some love. By the way I am a minister and I no longer am in ministry because I could no longer stand the hatred towards my loved ones.

  • 27. jimig  |  January 18, 2010 at 8:09 am

    “We have a substantial body of evidence documenting that a child being raised by same-sex parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents,” Lamb testified. I am the child of a same sex couple that has been together for over 40 years. I have 2 sisters all three of us are married we all have kids, we have all coached sports, been apart of the PTA two of us are active in church (I am an ordained paster with the same churches opposing this). We are all normal, we share our lives and spend lots of time with our parents. All it takes is love to raise well-adjusted children. And most importantly all 3 of us overcame some serious harted and predudices towards our family.

  • 28. Nino  |  January 19, 2010 at 3:08 am

    To comment on Joseph's post regarding the protect marriage blog, it is obvious that our opponent's comments are anything but objective, as they are written by an attorney, whose clear objective is to persuade readers to support their argument. There are no quotes, and he uses language that would almost make you feel stupid to believe he says anything other than the gospel truth. Propaganda techniques? You bet.

  • 29. Carolyn  |  January 19, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Many of us have been following the events of Prop 8 since it first started. Many of us have signed petitions, donated money, gotten others involved. Many of us continue to fight for equality for all, against discrimination and support the GLBT community. And many of us are straight and Christian. One thing deeply troubles me – the swift and damning comments made by some against Christians and the "Christian agenda." Those comments are as harmful and hurtful as the comments made by the Prop 8 supporters who talk about the gay stereotypes and "Gay agenda" (i.e. stupid things like molesting and converting children, etc.) Let's be clear – it is a specific group of so called Christian organizations and individuals who have an anti-GLBT "agenda." Organizations like The Family (aka The Fellowship), Individuals like Pat Robertson, and other self proclaimed (and I choke on this word) righteous men. For many of us, being Christian means to love one another, not judge others and to show kindness and charity to all. That is what Jesus preached, did and stood for. Please don't throw out terms that lump all Christians into a stereotype that promotes ill feelings. At least be specific and call it what it is -the "far-right Christian fanatic agenda." These fanatics do NOT represent the average Christian's position on GLBT equality. We are with you, we support you, we love you and we will continue to fight for you.

  • 30. Pierrette  |  January 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I am a 69 year old heterosexual woman, who is divorced, with one equally heterosexual child.

    I will fight to defend the right of loving adults (homosexual or not) to formalized unions and for these unions to be recognized by the law. "Marriage by any other name etc…."

    To do anything else is a denial of equal rights as eggrevious as discrimination based on the color of skin, body shape, religion, or country of origin.

    On the marriage certificates, I would like to see "spouse" instead of "husband" and "wife".

  • 31. chris  |  January 27, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Thank you Carolyn for your support. I am sorry that some people lump all Christians together as anti-gay. Keep in mind that some gay people have never been to a supportive church and may still be deeply hurt. As gay friendly Christians we should stand up and tell the world that we are here and that the hateful rhetoric coming from Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps does NOT represent Christianity as a whole.

  • 32. Prop 8 Trial Coverage&hellip  |  February 2, 2010 at 4:00 am

    […] Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4 – Day 5 – Week 1 Summary […]

  • 33. dave  |  January 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I support Prop 8 like most of the country. but I'm disappointed that there even needs to be a prop 8 to protect the traditional definition of marriage. A lot of us in America feel like we're being colonized by some foreign power imposing its worldview on us. This isn't how democracy is supposed to work. everywhere it has come up for a vote, we have voiced our disapproval of "gay marriage."

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