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Tag: Nancy Cott

Greatest hits from the trial

By Julia Rosen

For those of you who have not been able to read every single liveblog thread, here’s a few of the greatest hits courtesy of the fine folks at AFER.

This is what they did not want to see on TV:

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.” – Plaintiff Paul Katami

Here they are damaging their own case before it even really starts:

Judge Walker: “I’m asking you to tell me how it would harm opposite-sex marriages.”
Pro-Prop. 8 Atty Charles Cooper: “All right.”
Judge Walker: “All right. Let’s play on the same playing field for once.”
Cooper: “Your Honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.” – 10/14/09 pretrial hearing rejecting defendant intervenors’ request for summary judgment

And at the tail-end they are still hurting their own cause with David Blankenhorn, one of their two “expect” witnesses.

Blankenhorn admitted that “Adopting same-sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children,” and would be “a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion” and “a victory for, and another key expansion of, the American idea.” He also testified that it would result in fewer children growing up in state institutions and instead being raised by loving parents and would in fact reduce the divorce rate; reduce promiscuity; improve the stability of couples’ relationships; increase wealth for families and reduce government costs; and a decline in “anti-gay prejudice” and “anti-gay hate crimes.”

Contrast that to our experts.

ILAN H. MEYER, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, testified that Prop. 8 treats gay men and lesbians as if they are “not seen as equal… not respected by my state or by my country, by my fellow citizens.”

“As I described stigma earlier, I would say that law, and certainly a constitutional part of the law, would be a very strong part of, as I described, the social structures that define stigma, that define access. In a very simple way, you can think of it as a block or gate toward a particular institution, toward attaining a particular goal. So, in that sense, it is very much fitting in the definition of structural stigma,” Meyer testified. “[Prop. 8 imposes stigma] by the fact that it denies them access to the institution of marriage. As I said, people in our society have goals that are cherished by all people. Again, that’s part of social convention, that we all grow up raised to think that there are certain things that we want to achieve in life. And, in this case, this Proposition 8, in fact, says that if you are gay or lesbian, you cannot achieve this particular goal.”

Or this:

LETITIA ANNE PEPLAU, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, testified that she has “great confidence that some of the things that come from marriage, believing that you are part of the first class kind of relationship in this country, that you are — that you are in the status of relationships that this society most values, most esteems, considers the most legitimate and the most appropriate, undoubtedly has benefits that are not part of domestic partnerships.”

I’m a bit of an American history nut and this was one of the most interesting pieces of information from the trial for me.

DR. COTT also testified about the meaning of marriage in the context of slavery. “When slaves were emancipated, they flocked to get married. And this was not trivial to them, by any means. They saw the ability to marry legally, to replace the informal unions in which they had formed families and had children, many of them, to replace those informal unions with legal, valid marriage in which the states in which they lived would presumably protect their vows to each other. In fact, one quote that historians have drawn out from the record … it was said by an ex-slave who had also been a Union soldier, and he declared, ‘The marriage covenant is the foundation of all our rights.’”

“And then in corollary with that,” Dr. Cott continued, “there are other ways in which this position of civil rights, of basic citizenship, is a feature of the ability to marry and to choose the partner you want to choose. … It has to do with a black man, Dred Scott, who tried to say, when he was in a non-slave-holding state, that he was a citizen. And in an infamous decision, the Supreme Court denied him that claim. And why this is relevant here is that Justice Taney spent about three paragraphs of that opinion remarking that the fact that Dred Scott as a black man could not marry a white woman — in other words, that there were marriage laws in the state where he was and many other states, that prevented blacks from marrying whites — was a stigma that marked him as less than a full citizen…. he remarked on it because of the extent to which this limitation on Dred’s ability to marry was a piece of evidence that Justice Taney was remarking upon in his opinion to say this shows he
could not be a full citizen.”

From Dr. Gregory Herek:

He also agreed with the following from the APA: “…the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” and testified that no other major mental health organizations have endorsed therapies to change sexual orientation, and that aside from being ineffective, they can cause harm.

“It’s important to realize that the underlying assumption of these therapies tends to be that there’s something wrong; that homosexuality is a mental illness; that it’s something that needs to be cured or something that needs to be fixed or repaired. And that, of course, is completely inconsistent with the stance of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and other professional organizations in this area,” he testified.

Professor Chauncey testified about the decades of discrimination against LGBTs and how the Prop 8 campaign was just more of the same.

Specifically regarding Prop. 8, Dr. Chauncey testified that “the wave of campaigns that we have seen against gay marriage rights in the last decade are, in effect, the latest stage and cycle of anti-gay rights campaigns of a sort that I have been describing; that they continue with a similar intent and use some of the same imagery.”

After viewing several pro-Prop. 8 television ads and videos, Dr. Chauncey testified that 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 testified. “The underlying message here is something about the – the undesirability of homosexuality, that we don’t want our children to become this way.

And yes there was even a George Washington reference during the trial:

DR. COTT challenged statements made by defendant-intervenors’ attorney Charles Cooper during his opening statement that procreation is the “central and … defining purpose of marriage.” She testified that the ability or willingness to procreate has never been a litmus test for marriage.

“There has never been a requirement that a couple produce children in order to have a valid marriage. Of course, people beyond procreative age have always been allowed to marry. And known sterility or barrenness in a woman has never been a reason not to allow a marriage. In fact, it’s a surprise to many people to learn that George Washington, who is often called the father of our country, was sterile,” she testified.

As for death of straight marriage when gays are allowed to tie the knot:

DR. PEPLAU 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 testified.

Which one do you think did the most to help our case?

27 Comments January 30, 2010

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

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.” (more…)

33 Comments January 17, 2010

Liveblogging Day 2: Part III

By Rick Jacobs

And we are back from the break…

Thompson (defense lawyer): Now, he’s going after gender classification and its role in marriage.

T: Now onto religion in marriage. He’s reading from her own writing, talking about Christian model of monogamy, from the time of the colonists. In the history of this country both the church and state have influence marriage via conscience. He’s reading from her writings about Jesus Christ standing for the “innovation” of Christian monogamy.

Professor Cott: Want to make it clear since you are repeating my words outside of context, that I am using monogamy as within Christian precepts.

Judge Walker: Pre-Christian societies did not require monogamy?

Prof: As far as I am aware, in the regions in which Christianity arose, relationships were not restricted to monogamy. Christianity introduced the single partner for life as the marital regime.

T: One tenet of Christian monogamy was between a man and woman? (more…)

95 Comments January 12, 2010


By Rick Jacobs

This is the first time I’ve been able to pause because there is a break. First, I apologize for not getting the posts up sooner this morning. I have one of those AT&T wireless devices in my computer and it sometimes works and sometimes does not. This morning was at first a “does not.”

We’ve moved into the meat of the trial now. The emotion is largely over. The plaintiff is trying to prove that marriage has evolved, that it’s about the state’s recognition of a committed, loving relationship. They did a good job this morning showing the arc of marriage, the changes in the way society perceives the man-woman relationship and therefore the changes in marriage itself. WE forget how recently women had no rights at all in this country. I was sort of shocked when Prof. Cott kept saying that only since the 1970s did women have the same rights in marriage as men. It’s only been thirty years and I’m guessing a lot of women who might be reading this would affirm that we have a long way still to go. So even though the Supreme Court ruled that women are not chattel in marriage, society still has biases about the role of women. I say this because it’s important for us all to remember that even when we do get full marriage equality, we’ll still have decades of work to change the way people think and that will only happen through compelling story telling such as that of the two plaintiff couples yesterday.

But back to the point. Our side is showing that marriage evolves with society. Their side is doing everything possible to show that marriage is really about mother and child. And they want to show that there is a “radical homosexual agenda” designed to undermine the fabric of this nation through overthrow of institutions such as marriage. That’s the whole ball of wax here:

1. Marriage between a man and a woman is the only way to “protect” kids;
2. The gays want to overthrow America, so be afraid, be very afraid.

I’m not sure what our side will do to show the number of families in which kids are the product of single parents or in which they are raised by three generations of women, but no men (because maybe the men are in prison, but that’s another story). What about foster kids? What about adopted kids? And Prof. Cott spoke briefly about new means of creating children out of traditional biological methods.

The world has changed. We’re really looking to this case to allow the world as it is to be defended by the constitution.

I was on a radio show this morning that I should not have been on. In fact, after I realized that I had made an error, I did not stay on. The host introduced the show by saying that “radical homosexuals” seek to overturn the will of the people as exercised by Prop. 8 in which “more than 60% of the voters” voted for Prop. 8. It got worse from there. When he told me that I could “recover” from being a homosexual, I realized there was no point in going on. I raise this because I could not help thinking about the eloquent plaintiffs yesterday. How many times, day after day, are we told we are not good enough? How many times are we told that we can be left aside, that discrimination is okay? For those of you who know me, you know that I am no radical. I wish I were. I just want a country in which everyone has equal rights.

I did another show with one of the reverends from All Saints in Pasadena (Rev. Susan, but I don’t have her last name, so help!) She said it all: “why are spending so much time and money on denying people equal rights when we have real problems such as poverty and war out there?” This fight for the right wing, that they want to hide and keep off the air, is about their radical agenda. They really do not like America. They like some conception of America from another time or from no time, but they don’t like this America. They fear at root that when this issue is settled in favor of justice and equality that we’ll all really be able to attend fully to social and economic justice, to figuring out why our inner city African American male populations are imprisoned and how to fix that. They fear the pluralism of our population, the new melting pot that is no longer their conception.

In reality, this will all make our nation more powerful. That’s right: Same sex marriage will strengthen society because it will eliminate, at least from a legal perspective, another piece of institutionalized discrimination. It will stop setting us against each other. We have so much to do!

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15 Comments January 12, 2010

Liveblogging Day Two: Part II Cross-examination of Cott continues

By Rick Jacobs

The last thread was getting a bit long, so I am moving to a fresh one. Thank you for hanging in there while I was experiencing Internet connection issues earlier.

Thompson (lawyer for the defense) tries to say that Professor Nancy Cott is not a big defender of the institution of marriage.)
Throughout American history the government has been very interested in assuring dependent children are supported by family.

One of purposes of marriage is to provide for dependents and vulnerable. One of marriage’s purposes is to promote stability. One of purposes is to assure that children are raised by mother and father (She says no). Purpose to legitimate children (but less important now, she says.)

Laws of interracial marriage bans created illegitimate children. YES
Prof: 1667 law punished shameful matches between free white women and Negroes, intent was to penalize and criminalize marriages.

True that NY, PA, NJ have never had a law prohibiting interracial marriage.

I have to check this.

Fair to say never a uniform legal prohibition against marriage. (more…)

27 Comments January 12, 2010

Liveblogging Day 2

By Rick Jacobs

Internet is back!

Plaintiffs attorney Theodore Boutrous quoting a statement made by the proponents:

And the purpose of the institution of marriage, the central purpose is to promote procreation and to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable enduring unions… it is the central and we would submit defining purpose of marriage.

Professor Cott: Procreation is one of the purposes of marriage. The larger purpose of marriage from the state’s perspective is the ordering of the household, the contribution to stability and governance. It’s important to recognize that marriage has been an instrument of governance.

How does that contribute to governance?

Prof: Looking at this historically, it’s the regulatory purpose of marriage. Husbands were economically responsible for their family/spouse. The point of marriage was so the sovereign could govern in smaller units, the household. We no longer assume that the single head of household has all the power, especially since 1920 when omen got the right to vote. The institution of marriage has always been as much about supporting adults as it has been minors. The proponents emphasize the minors’.

TB: Have there been other benefits than child rearing (to marriage)?

Prof: There has never been a requirement that a couple must produce children in order to have a marriage. Couples beyond the procreative age were always allowed to marry. Sterility has never been a bar to marriage. George Washington, the father of our country, was known to be sterile, which was considered an advantage because he could not create a dynasty.

Prof: the line between legitimacy and illegitimacy was marriage. This had an effect on property, inheritance and the like. In the 20th century, there has been a removal of that bright line. However, in family courts, unmarried couples’ children have to prove that they deserve a piece of the parents’ inheritance, while children of married couples do not have to prove that.

The fact that the state is involved in granting these kinds of benefits and legitimacy to the marriage institution grants prestige and legitimacy that other forms of relationships never achieve.

Boutrous puts up another statement from the opening statement of the proponents:

Across history and customs marriage is fundamentally a pro-childe institution…between a man and a woman.

Marriage aims to meet the child’s need to be emotionally, morally, practically and legally affiliated with the woman and the man whose sexual union brought the children to the world. (more…)

30 Comments January 12, 2010

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