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Tag: Jenny Pizer

Legal Experts Weigh in on Supreme Court Banning Cameras

By Julia Rosen

Whenever I want legal analysis of a SCOTUS ruling, I turn to the only lawyer in my family for his opinion. It just so happens that the cousin in question is Professor Jonathan Turley, who often shows up on your Tee-Vee talking about the law.

So last night I shot him an email about the extremely disappointing ruling by SCOTUS not to allow the trial to be televised or even put up delayed on YouTube. Jonathan has been a long-time advocate for opening up the courtroom for filming, contending that constitution “clearly states a principle of open, public proceedings”. He ended up posting about it over at his blog:

This is normally a matter left to the discretion of a trial judge. To be sure, there are always concerns about the safety of witnesses, but those concerns are routinely addressed by positioning the camera to avoid showing a witness when there is a credible fear. In this case, conservatives have said that witnesses will fear a backlash for opposing same-sex marriage and even physical attacks. Yet, the names of these witnesses and their identifying information will not be sealed.

I disagree with the Court’s ruling, which will now bar the broadcast of one of the most important civil rights challenges of the decade. It not only disregards the discretion given to the trial court, but ignored that fact that this pilot program was approved after long debate last month by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was left to the trial judges to order such taping in non-jury, civil trials.

What we are left with is that the defense argued that a small number of individuals testifying feared harassment, but none of them actually stepped forward to say that themselves. Because of that fear, which as Jonathan states could be mitigated by camera positioning or the like, all of the testimony from the vast majority of those on the stand during this trial is blocked from public viewing. (more…)

44 Comments January 14, 2010

Wrapping Up Day 2

By Rick Jacobs

Well, that’s it for day two. The pattern looks pretty clear. Our side is saying that gays and lesbians have been harmed for a really long time, that there has been institutional discrimination, that they are a suspect class (meaning they should be covered by the equal protection clause). Our side is also showing that marriage will be strengthened by permitting loving same-sex couples access it, that society will be more stable with same-sex marriage and that there is no harm done at all by opening marriage to same-sex couples.

The Prop. 8 side wants to show that marriage has always (in the US) been a Christian institution between a man and a woman, that heterosexual marriage is really good for kids and that in fact homosexual marriage will “hurt” kids and will degrade the institution. Ultimately, they are trying to show that it will lead to less stability as people abandon the institution of marriage.

They are having a hard time with that because so far the evidence shows that by seeking access to marriage, groups previously excluded, such as slaves, interracial couples, certain classes of “foreigners” and in some cases women, have actually strengthened the institution by obtaining access.

There’s another theme here which is about tradition. Remember the Fiddler on the Roof song? The Prop. 8 side appeals to their concept of tradition. The only problem is that their idea of tradition either never existed or only existed when women and people of color had fewer rights than white men.

There’s so much more, but you all can probably see more patterns than can I because I have been so close to it. What do you see? What do you think? Share it, will you? One big purpose of this trial is to have a national conversation based on a huge body of evidence. Homosexuality and America are on trial here. The Prop. 8 folks do not want you to see what’s going on and they don’t want a conversation outside of the carefully controlled media buys they that are all based on fear. So start talking, start writing.

Courage Campaign Institute started our Courageous Conversations (check it out here). Sooner than later, we need to stories of the plaintiffs out there. That will start to change hearts even as this trial changes minds.

The hard part is living through this. That Anita Bryant segment, the ads, the analysis of the ads by Prof. Chauncey, it is all upsetting. Last night, Cleve Jones and Lance Black showed me Harvey Milk’s Castro Street. Cleve’s mind is a bit scary: he remembers every name and face and place that he has ever been. He’s a walking history book who can translate and apply that history today’s politics even while he designs the strategy for the future. We all know that Lance is a wildly talented writer, but he’s way smart. He lived MILK for ten years before the movie became MILK.

I had never spent any time in the Castro. The truth is that I was afraid to as I was maturing because in my twenties, when I was not out and hated being gay, I was afraid to come to San Francisco because I did not want people to think I was gay. So there I was yesterday listening to how those two couples had gotten mauled by prejudice and how all they want to do is marry and then that night I was walking through gay history with two of the people I most respect. Cleve knew lots and lots of people still even last night. Some folks came up to Lance to give him a book or ask for a picture. We stopped in Twin Peaks, a bar that had been there since, as Cleve remembered, 1972. Lance and I were talking and at one point we realized that Cleve had been gone for a long time (usually I’m gone and they never notice, but enough of that). The bartender laughed at us as we swiveled our necks looking for him. There was Cleve, twenty feet away at the end of the bar talking to two African American gentlemen of a certain age. They’d been at it for about twenty minutes, recalling who had been alive, who was still alive, who was where and what had moved, what had changed, what had not.

Cleve and people like him made it possible for me to be here today. They lived in that sort of secret society that Professor Chauncey talked about and then they came out and they fought the police and they fought Anita Bryant and then they fought AIDS and then many died and then they watched as guys like me sauntered up without the external scars that they bear, but still wounded inside, still unsure if we’re “okay” after having been told for a lifetime that, as the plaintiffs and Dr. Cott and Dr. Chauncey said, we are “less than.”

This time, in this trial of homosexuality and of America, we have the best conservative legal advocate in the nation on our side along with arguably the best advocacy team in Olson, Boutros, Boies and Stewart, among others. And they are backed up by decades of hard work from Jenny Pizer and so many other brilliant advocates in the LGBT community. This time, though, it’s not the gays stirring it up; it’s the establishment demanding equality for all of America.

I’m sitting under the gray sky outside the gray Burton Courthouse finishing up this post. I’m still all torn up inside and maybe even around my eyes. I have to process what I’m seeing. What we all know is that we are living history. As I keep saying, I want the history for the next generation to be free of burdens of sexuality and stigma. We have that chance thanks to Chad and Bruce and the Foundation and the donors and thanks to everyone who reads this blog, everyone who tells story, everyone who owns their wholeness as an American.

I may not be here for a while, but we’ll cover this. We have to.

Now please, go out there and talk and listen!

53 Comments January 12, 2010

Fundamental questions: Exposing the defendants real beliefs

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By Julia Rosen

One benefit of Perry v Schwarzenegger is the defendants have to set aside the fears, lies and hyperbole used in political campaigns and instead focus on logic, reason and facts. The other side has been very successful on the ballot talking about everything but marriage, from kids in schools to churches non-profit statuses. This court case forces them to focus on the law and a few fundamental questions. Jenny Pizer from Lambda Legal writes over at LGBT POV:

These questions include: How rigorous should the constitutional analysis be of laws that discriminate against gay people? Should such laws be presumed invalid like laws that treat people differently based on sex, race, nationality or religion, such that weighty public purposes are required to justify them? Should sexual orientation discrimination be considered a form of sex or gender discrimination such that more searching review is warranted for that reason? Do gay people have the same basic right to marry the person they love that straight people have?

By contrast, a few days ago “Yes on 8″‘s general counsel Andy Pugno penned a long, meandering email for the Protect Marriage list, which reads in part:

What is at stake is whether voters can rationally conclude that traditional marriage is a unique institution that promotes important interests respecting natural childrearing, and that those interests are broader than the personal, private interests of the adults involved. And what is at stake is whether voters may consider their own moral and religious views about marriage – or any other subject – when casting their ballots.

There is a lot to unpack in this short paragraph. Let’s start with the voters. In many respects, the voters’ thinking is not in question during this trial. It does not matter much how rational or irrational they are, or what they conclude. Voters are allowed to use any reasoning they want to make their decisions at the ballot box, but in this case, did their decision on Prop 8 violate the constitution? Olson and Boies will argue that it did throughout this trial.

Most of the political campaigns have stayed away from uniqueness of straight relationships. It’s not a winning message to talk LGBT relationships not being the same or as good as straight relationships. But this trial will consistently expose the full beliefs of anti-equality advocates: that gay relationships are not as meaningful, do not provide as good an environment for child rearing and that the larger society does not benefit from recognizing and supporting those relationships. That’s why they are so eager to hide this trial as much as possible from the public. They know that Americans by and large will not agree with them.

In the heat of the campaign, there is no way that phrases like “natural childrearing” would ever make it into their communication. It is a direct attack on the fitness of LGBT parents. While Pugno does not state it here, he clearly believes that gays should not be allowed to have children because it is “unnatural”. We are likely to see the defendants argue that LGBTs provide an inferior environment for child-rearing, something that has consistently been rejected in courts around the country. That’s unlikely to stop them however.

There is much more to unpack from Pugno’s rant, after all that was just one paragraph out of fifteen. So keep checking back for more posts as we continue to track the right-wing’s reactions to Perry v Schwarzenegger.

2 Comments January 10, 2010