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Archives – June, 2010

This Really Bothers Me

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign

I was on Facebook the other day and noticed something that really got under my skin.

The National Organization for Marriage, the right-wing extremist group that spent millions to pass Prop 8, had more fans on Facebook than Testimony: Equality On Trial, the Courage Campaign’s project to empower all Americans to participate in the historic trial against Prop 8.

I know, I know. It seems like something small and unimportant. But it isn’t.

What happens in this case will have far reaching impacts that will last for generations. That’s why we launched Testimony: Equality on Trial, to show the real-life impact this case has on Americans. By preventing the court from televising the trial, opponents of equality want to keep our stories hidden from the public. But we won’t let them silence us. And we won’t let them win.

NOM has led the fight against marriage equality. You might remember their “Gathering Storm” video from the Prop 8 battle, when they helped mobilize right-wing Californians to vote to take away our rights. NOM was also responsible for taking away our rights in Maine last fall, spearheading the passage of Question 1.

From banning cameras in the courtroom and striking testimony from the record to seeking to shut down the Prop 8 Trial Tracker and disabling comments on their Facebook wall (maybe the pro-equality comments were too much for them?), NOM will stop at nothing to silence our voices and to keep the truth from being heard. Because they know that when we share our stories we win.

So we asked our members to take a stand against NOM and “like” the Testimony fanpage and suggest the page to their friends. And their response has been overwhelming. We blew past NOM in a matter of hours, and are now hoping to double their presence on Facebook.

We need to tell the story of this trial to as many people as possible. And with so many people now on Facebook, it’s very important that we use it to shed light on the trial.

Will you join us on Facebook?

Click here to “like” the Testimony: Equality on Trial fanpage and show your support for marriage equality.

Already a fan? Then visit our page and click on “Suggest to Friends” to help us show NOM how much support their is for marriage equality.

Thank you for helping us tell the story of this trial.

338 Comments June 22, 2010

Small victories, small excitement

By Julia Rosen

There is an article in Newsweek about all of the small victories we have had since Obama’s election on LGBT rights. The secondary headline reads: “Gay rights advocates have seen significant progress on LGBT issues, yet still are not celebrating. Why is that?”

I bet you have a few answers to that question, but the biggest reason is that they have been small, partial steps, not significant fundamental reform and change. Take today’s very good news that the Labor Department under Secretary Hilda Solis will be issuing a new regulation that orders businesses to grant unpaid leave to LGBT employees to care for their loved ones under the Family and Medical Leave Act. AP reporter Phil Elliot:

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis planned to announce Wednesday that the government would require employers to extend the option that has been available to heterosexual workers for almost two decades, two officials briefed on the plan said Monday. Neither was authorized to speak publicly ahead of the announcement.

The move, coming less than five months before November’s congressional elections, seemed likely to incite conservatives and Republicans who stood in lockstep against the Obama administration’s earlier efforts to repeal a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. It also appeared likely to be popular with loyal Democrats and organized labor.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to take care of loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law, which also allows employees to take time off for adoptions, has previously only been applied to heterosexual couples.

Incense those conservatives, because this is one change I am pretty damn sure that vast majority of the American public will support. It is about treating people decently, just like hospital visitation rights. There is no way that this would have happened under a McCain administration and is a sign that things are different and better.

But the big changes, the ones that loom large in symbolism and meaning have not yet come. Back to that Newsweek article:

But here’s the catch—the bigger issues are consistently on the verge of happening, but never seem to be a done deal. There is a divide between Washington insiders who understand that government is painfully slow to move, on any issue, and a newly activated core of gay activists who want immediate change. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” hasn’t been repealed yet, the gay-marriage trial could take years to reach the Supreme Court, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act continues to block gay couples from countless legal benefits, including—in a bizarre twist—the right to a swift and affordable divorce.


If you look at timelines detailing the milestones over the decades in the gay rights movement, you’ll see more and more markers after 2008, with the gay-marriage movement gaining more states and President Obama allowing same-sex partners of federal employees to receive certain benefits. Yet sometimes being so close to success, when it’s not fully achieved, is confusing, and upsetting.

You’ve got that right. We’ve gotten cautious, incremental change, but no big ones that signal a change in society’s acceptance of LGBTs. It’s one thing for the polling to say that 75% of Americans favor repealing DADT and it’s another to see openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving proudly, instead of in the shadows of forced out of the military.

So, thank you Hilda Solis and those who made the inclusion of LGBTs possible in the Family Medical Leave Act, but we have a long way to go to full equality. Meanwhile, we will take those frustrating feelings of partial victory and pour them into working towards those big proud victories that are nearly within our grasp.

57 Comments June 21, 2010

“The Mormon Proposition”

By Julia Rosen

This weekend the documentary “8 – The Mormon Proposition” has it’s limited release in 13 cities across the country. The movie which documents the LDS Church’s involvement in the passage of Prop 8 is being reviewed in newspapers across the country. Here’s the NYT take on the film.

The film dives angrily into the fray. It uncovers the classified church documents and the largely concealed money trail of Mormon contributions that paid for a high-powered campaign to pass Proposition 8. The Mormon involvement, the film persuasively argues, tilted the vote toward passage, by 52 percent to 48 percent, in its final weeks.

That involvement was concealed under the facade of a coalition with Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians called the National Organization for Marriage. Mormons raised an estimated $22 million for the cause. In the final week of the campaign, the film says, $3 million came from Utah. The money financed a sophisticated media barrage that involved blogs, Twitter and YouTube videos, as well as scary (and, according to the movie, misleading) television ads, and an aggressive door-to-door campaign whose foot soldiers were instructed on how not to appear Mormon.

Those who were following the Prop 8 campaign closely know most of this stuff, but I am told by those who have seen the film, that it is quite another thing to see this documentary.

After the passage of Prop 8 there was a lot of backlash against Mormons themselves, as opposed to the more accurate target the LDS Church. You can see how this line/distinction slips in this NYT article. The author writes “The Mormon involvement”, when it is more accurate to say “The Mormon Church’s involvement”. While, the vast majority of Mormons in California voted for the passage of Prop 8, they are not our opposition. The LDS Church is the one who organized all of those donations, broke the law by not reporting their in kind donations and recruited all of those canvassers. It’s a relatively small thing, but important as we all work to do outreach to those who opposed us in 2008.

How many of you have seen the movie already? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it yet are you planning on it?

I for one am curious to see it, even if I already know will happen.

183 Comments June 18, 2010

Back in court

By Arisha Hatch

I didn’t realize it at the security check or as I waited in the lobby for an elevator to the 17th floor of the Federal Building yesterday. I didn’t realize it in the food court as attorneys that I knew from the past approached me to see how I was doing; No, I didn’t realize it until Prop 8 defense attorney Cooper stammered and struggled to answer a question posed by Judge Vaughn Walker, that I hadn’t been in a courtroom in almost two years – since I was sworn into the California bar as an attorney.

My name is Arisha Michelle Hatch. I’m currently working as the National Field Director for Courage Campaign’s Equality Program on a project called Testimony: Equality on Trial, but I was always supposed to be a lawyer. Perhaps because my grandmother never could be or because my father wasn’t – I always knew that this was my calling.

I’ve never live logged before – didn’t expect to be live logging yesterday – and the former English-major in me can’t even bare to go back and read the threads we posted (ripe with grammatical, usage and spelling errors I’m sure). But sitting in that courtroom watching Cooper squirm, I remembered – or re-remembered, perhaps – the lawyer that I at one point wanted to be and how this equality work that we do everyday actually is so important.

You see, despite my straight-ally status my life these last few years has been at times strangely connected to marriage equality and Proposition 8.

The day after the California Supreme Court granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in May 2008, I found out that I failed the California bar exam for the second time. I remember the morning before I found out the exam results – how nervous I was. I knew that if I didn’t pass this time that I’d have to leave my job at the firm. I remember walking to the Oakland BART station to cross the bridge to go to work. A ladybug fell on my eyelash and then onto my hand. I took that as a sign; I decided at that moment that no matter what the result – whether I passed or failed – that I was still moving in the right direction.

I got into work that morning and the first person I saw was my attorney-mentor and supervisor Molly McKay. And she was beaming. She could finally marry, or so the court said. While working at the law firm, I knew that Molly was an activist, but I didn’t know how big of a deal she was. At the time, she kept a wedding gown in her office, sometimes draped over her door (I’d be willing to bet it’s still there now) and would say things like “you never know when you might need to get married.” That morning she was happier than usual as she gave me my daily assignment and just before I left, knowing that my scores were coming that evening, she grabbed my hand and said “I give you all my luck.”

In retrospect, re-taking the bar exam for the third time had its perks; unable to practice for 3 months while I waited for the results I started doing things that I never knew I wanted to do. One day I went in and volunteered to make phone calls for the Obama campaign, 3 months later I was working 20 hours a day for in that office – never had a moment to think about whether I passed the bar, whether I’d ever be a lawyer.

Two weeks after Barack Obama was elected President and Proposition 8 was approved, I finally passed the California bar and all I could think was that Molly had given me her luck and needed it back.

I went to work for the Courage Campaign partly because of that handshake in her office in that office that day.

I know this is long, but I wanted to explain to you (and myself) why I felt a lot of things yesterday. There were times that I wanted to laugh out loud or hiss when Cooper mentioned marriage’s procreative purpose; wanted to scream when he attempted to distinguish himself (and Prop 8 supporters) from proponents of racial segregation laws that although now gone, still affect my family in ways so subconscious that they are difficult to articulate.

But what I was most surprised by – what I’m still struggling with – is how much compassion I felt for Cooper as he attempted and failed to make a single coherent argument for his side. Maybe it’s a lawyer-thing, maybe it’s a law school thing, but I had flashbacks of moot court; that moment in a trial or during a hearing when your forced to make an argument that you know in your gut doesn’t “pass the straight-face test” because – although weak – it’s the only case you’ve got to make.

It’s a desperate feeling really; standing center-stage, naked, your argument prepared and a judge who’s only job is to find, illuminate and grapple with the weak spots.

That’s what I saw on Wednesday in that courtroom – a desperate attorney. I lost sleep last night wondering if he actually believed the things that he was saying, wondering if he was sleeping well, wondering why I couldn’t completely villainize him in my mind. And that’s the hardest aspect of this equality movement – the villains don’t look like villains. They aren’t walking around with fire hoses or batons or dogs, and when approached they seem almost meek at times, unprepared to back up their arguments, sometimes almost – almost – conflicted. Again, I don’t know what Cooper felt last night, but there’s a hopeful person in me who thinks that even Cooper will, as Langston Hughes wrote in my favorite poem, one day see how beautiful you all are, “and be ashamed.”

111 Comments June 17, 2010

Why We Must Tell America the Truth About the Prop 8 Trial

by Cleve Jones

In his most famous speech, my good friend Harvey Milk urged LGBT people to come out of the closet. “For invisible, we remain in limbo,” he said.

Harvey knew that full equality would not become reality as long as the public was also shielded from the truth about who we are. The hollow arguments at the foundation of our institutionalized second class citizenship would never be challenged unless we embraced our identities publicly.

With closing arguments in the Prop. 8 trial scheduled for this Wednesday, Harvey Milk’s words ring as true today as they did when they were first uttered in 1978. And all parties to the Prop. 8 trial know it.

That’s why the Courage Campaign and CREDO Action gathered nearly 140,000 petition signatures asking to have the historic federal trial over Proposition 8 (Perry vs. Schwarzenegger) televised back in January. It’s also why we launched the Prop. 8 Trial Tracker blog, which has received two million hits so far, to help everyday Americans stay connected to the important and historic events happening in the courtroom.

And it’s why last month, we launched an unprecedented grassroots campaign to bring this historic trial to life across America through a project called Testimony: Equality on Trial.


But most Americans have not seen this evidence.

That’s because after successfully petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to deny public access to the trial, Prop. 8’s supporters have fought to strike their own witness testimony from the official trial record. Their objective has been to keep the truth “invisible” to the American people no matter what the outcome of a case that is likely to continue until it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court – a process that could take years.

Now is the time to answer Harvey Milk’s call to action by taking the Prop. 8 trial out of the legal abstract and into the public square. It is time to empower the tens of millions of Americans who are also on trial because of the lies at the heart of Prop. 8 – but whose stories will never be admitted into evidence in this case.

Through videotaped, guerrilla theater trial re-enactments and depositions by everyday Americans who have come to understand the destructive power of discrimination, Testimony can be the definitive public education campaign for the LGBT equality movement.

It all starts with your participation. All you need is a camera, a friend, and an internet connection.

Visit the Equality on Trial Website to get involved today.

Follow Equality on Trial on Facebook

I created the Names Project, known as the AIDS Memorial Quilt, to engage every American who knew anyone afflicted by the pandemic and to bring AIDS and HIV out of the shadows. That project changed the way our country, including the government and health researchers, viewed HIV/AIDS. And that’s precisely what Testimony will do for equal rights.

I remember when Anita Bryant used her virulent brand of homophobia to strip basic rights from LGBT people in Dade County, Florida in 1972. My generation of activist – the Stonewall Generation – vowed never to accept public votes on our rights. As Ted Olson says, “when the rights of minorities are voted on, minorities usually lose. That’s why we have the constitution and the federal courts.”

This trial is the best shot the Stonewall Generation has of seeing full equality. The strategy of fighting state by state, county by county and city by city has created a patchwork of inequality where some have certain rights, others none. It divides Americans from each other. And it fails to recognize that true equality can only come from the Federal Government.

Our challenge in the months ahead is to share the testimony heard by Judge Walker with our fellow citizens and our representatives in government; to accelerate the profound shift in public opinion on this issue and to make that change evident to the President, Congress and Supreme Court.

We need your help to ensure that this trial, and the millions who will be impacted by its outcome, are invisible no more.

113 Comments June 16, 2010

At the AFER Press Conference

By Rick Jacobs

I’m at the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) press conference. The set is a replay of the set at the opening press conference in May 2009 in LA when AFER publicly launched itself and the case.

Andy Pugno, General Counsel of (the oxymoronic) Protect Marriage opened by saying that now the judge can rule. Cooper said he awaits the judge’s ruling so this case can go to its next phase. Cooper ran out unwilling to take questions. We know he has no answers.

Now Austin R. Nimocks, the guy from the Alliance Defense Fund is trying to answer a question about the dangers that Charles Cooper mentioned over and over. He said that it’s about protecting the institution of marriage.

Pugno says that the court rests on the scrutiny issues.

Questioner says the argument you made says that marriage is to protect people who want to have children and those children. How does this work with married couples who cannot or do not procreate? ADF guy says that mothers and fathers are needed. And no public policy is perfect, not for stop signs, or traffic or marriage, but 99% of kids are born from opposite sex couples.

Pugno says that only a man and a woman can inadvertently have children. That’s why the state wants them to marry.

Questioner: Are you saying that ss couples cannot procreate?

Pugno: You don’t understand my answer. Let’s move on. Only men and women can procreate.

Q: SS and opposite sex couples can engage in irresponsible sex.

Pugno: Courts have right to channel (there he goes again).

Nimocks: Defending Prop. 8 is playing defense. Judge not necessarily critical of our not having witnesses. We did not need to have any. All we have to do is have rational basis. We do. Someone may not agree with that basis, but it’s still rational.

Q: Cooper said end of marriage would lead to end of society.

Pugno: I think he was quoting from Supreme Court. All of these questions are great for legislative debate where we change hearts and minds. We don’t ask judges to substitute their will for the will of the voters.

There is a phalanx of cameras here, at least 12 big TV cameras and another dozen small ones plus many, many stills.

Chad and Ted Olson and David Boies and the plaintiffs took the stage. Everyone applauded wildly. Chad is speaking. He said this is not a political campaign with bumper stickers and ads. The law and facts mattered here and the other side had trouble with that. At its core this case is about every person being treated equally. Equal protection is founding principle of country. Plaintiffs want same rights—not special rights—same rights.

I want to thank these plaintiffs before you who represent their own families and so many others across the country. I also want to thank Olson/GibsonDunn and Boies/Boise Schiller. We have become a family and we’re staying together until we get equality.

Kristin Perry thanks Chad and AFER and Ted and David for leading a legal team the likes of which we have never seen and not for a better cause. You gave two moms our day in court. Sandy and I just want the same thing everyone else has. That’s all the case is about: fairness and equality.

Paul Katami thanks everyone. Jeff and I are ordinary Americans. We work hard and pay our taxes. We want fairness. That’s all we ask.

Olson came up and grabbed Boies. “I don’t do anything without David Boies.”

Boies said, “One thing he did without David Boies was the best argument I have heard in 45 years.”

Ted thanks all the folks in both firms, AFER and the plaintiffs. We could not in this country stand any longer without doing something about a proposition that gets placed into the constitution that prohibits people from entering into the relationship that the Supreme Court says is the most important relationship.

I grew up in CA, now live in the east. Chad and the Foundation and so many others—so many names I won’t start going through them all. Every day, David and I have had in mind our clients. We don’t do a thing without thinking about them, about fighting for them. We want the judge to see that on our faces is the interest of our clients. Clients got out there everyday and put their faith in us. Very courageous people. They stand for millions as Chad has said.

We put together a team of lawyers that tries to live up to the promise. We’re a few steps ahead of where we were a year ago. Judge offered to have cameras in courtroom but Supreme Court did not allow. If there was ever a trial in the history of our country that the American people should have seen it was this trial. To see our clients stand up there and talk about their feeling and families was heart wrenching for everyone.

TO hear the most prominent experts in the world talk about discrimination and the history of marriage was terrific. Judge was one of most competent I have ever seen. He moved us along, but he gave us the opportunity to establish a record for the appellate courts and the American people.

Working with David Boies an honor. I said in my closing statement that they had few witnesses on the other side because many of them learned in deposition what it means to be cross-examined by David Boies. Two showed up and they understood why the others did not show up.

I feel very good that we did as good as we could.

Boies said if ever there was trial that should have been televised, it was this one. If it gets out of the darkness, people will be fair and this will all end. Thanks to Chad. No case without him. This has been a challenging, enormously gratifying case. I understand that when Ted finished in overflow room, people cheered. It’s now in the hands of the judge. We made a great case. I’m very hopeful that the facts and the law really will matter in this case. Facts and law are on our side.

[UPDATE 5:25]

Q: Is this the case that will go to the Supreme Court?

O: I believe it is. It is California. There is no other case in federal court that challenges a state. Whether or not we win or lose, we will appeal, I cannot imagine the other side won’t. Someone will bring this to the Supreme Court.

To your other question, of course it is civil rights. Supreme Court said marriage is key right. It also said intimate private sexual matters are a right. How can you then not say that marriage is not linked to that?

Presumptuous to say how judge will rule. Top graduate of Stanford. Chief judge. Been on bench for 25 years. Was at a law firm. I’m confident that he’ll do the best job he can. I don’t know how he’ll rule. He could rule on a narrow basis because California has such a bizarre set of rules.

I don’t know how long it’ll take him to rule. It’ll take him as long as it takes. He gave us 39 questions. He’s a very thoughtful judge.

Ocamb asks questions.

Olson: You sensed how passionate I was in this trial. There may have been a few times when I had more emotion running through my body, but felt that way all day today and most of time in trial. I need to be able to convey those emotions to the judge. Partially academic exercise because we are talking about the law. I think about discrimination.

Boies: I have no answer to the 18,000. Assuming that the plaintiffs win, what should remedy be? Answer they came up with, invalidate the 18,000 marriages. No one knows how they came up with that. I won’t predict, but I will make one prediction: the 18,000 marriages will not be invalidated.

(I paused to talk to Cleve. I missed a couple of questions.)

O: One of the judge’s questions was how did we get to this traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman. It is not correct factually that it has been that way which is why our opponents did not bring it up today.

Intimate relations, spirituality, family are not connected to their definition of marriage. It has nothing to do with it.

I could go on and on, but you heard the closing arguments.

Thank you.

58 Comments June 16, 2010

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