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Tag: William Tam

Prop 8 decision: column as I see ’em

By Adam Bink

Column as I see ’em:

  • So a number of us (over 200, in fact) waited 45 minutes for Brian Brown’s live chat that was due to start at 7 PM EST, but he never showed, despite asking supporters in an e-mail to come. Wow. Jeremy has some of the awesome chat feed while we were waiting, though.
  • But Brian did find time to film a video asking for contributions. It makes me nauseous. Watch.
  • Here at, where we actually do show up when we say we will, day-in and day-out, at all hours, we could use your help supporting the NOM Tour Tracker, Prop 8 coverage. Tomorrow evening, we’ll be coming to you from St. Louis, MO. Getting our trackers to each stop and getting coverage for you up on this site costs money. Please chip in to support this coverage. Plus, if you do so, it’ll be matched 1:1 by a special $25,000 match from Tom Dolby and Drew Frist, just married last year, in honor of today’s decision.

    Give today.

  • Via Box Turtle Bulletin, Liberty Counsel blames the Alliance Defense Fund for the verdict. Circular firing squads on the right are fun.
  • Over e-mail, Shannon Minter with National Center for Lesbian Rights- who was lead counsel on the original CA Supreme Court case in 2008- sent this dispatch into colleague Rex Wockner. With permission, he has given permission for it to be published. It’s interesting.

    This is a tour de force-a grand slam on every count. The court held that Prop 8 violates the fundamental right to marry and discriminates on the basis of both sex and sexual orientation in violation of the equal protection clause. The court held that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation must be subject to the highest level of constitutional review, but that Prop 8 would fail even the lowest test, because it is based solely on moral disapproval of gay people. The court made detailed findings of fact about all of the evidence presented and the credibility of the witnesses. This is without a doubt a game-changing ruling. Today’s decision is the most comprehensive, detailed decision addressing the constitutional rights of same-sex couples to affirmative recognition and support ever to be issued by a federal court.

    How well put together is this decision?

    The decision is meticulously crafted. Judge Walker reviewed the entire record and made detailed factual findings about all of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. He also supported his ruling on multiple legal grounds. For example, he found both that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation are subject to the highest level of constitutional protection, but that Prop 8 would fail even under the lowest level of protection because it serves no legitimate purpose. This is a remarkably careful, thorough, and deliberate decision, obviously written with an eye to presenting appellate courts with the strongest possible factual and legal basis for the ruling.

    What’s the impact on higher courts? Why?

    The appellate courts are not strictly bound by the court’s factual findings, but they generally give such findings a great deal of deference. The appellate courts also will undoubtedly will give considerable weight to Judge Walker’s careful legal analysis, although they ultimately will make their own independent assessment of what the law requires.

    Does the ruling apply only in CA or to all laws that bar ss couples from marriage?

    Judge Walker’s decision addressed only the situation in California, which stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry while leaving them with an inferior institution of domestic partnership. He also made many factual findings that are specific to Prop 8. But many aspects of his legal reasoning would also apply to other laws that bar same-sex coupes from marriage or otherwise discriminate against LGBT people.

  • Obama’s statement (on his birthday, no less): “The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans.” Pretty vanilla- kind of reminds me of the one made in response to The Advocate inquiry for a position on No On 1/Referendum 71, actually- but it’s still nice to see. And I do recall the Obama speaking out against Prop 8 back in 2008, and the Obama-directed DNC donate to the cause.
  • A nice comment came in over e-mail to the team here:

    I’m straight and have been in a monogamous marriage for 22 years. “A right you reserve for yourself and deny others is not a right but a privilege”. I want the society that I live in to provide equal rights for all. Thank you for your efforts to provide information and help keeping us up to date. You deserve a big thank you for your efforts. I know this is just another step in our journey but it’s worth taking time to celebrate.

    You’re welcome. We really do appreciate the pat on the back. And thanks for being a straight ally!

    If you out there you like our coverage too, please consider chipping in to keep it going. You’ll be matched dollar for dollar.

  • Olson and Boies on Maddow tonight. 6 PM PST/9 PM EST. Leave your thoughts on their interview in the comments.

This is an open thread on the Prop 8 ruling and our movement for full marriage equality.

UPDATE BY EDEN: Kathleen in the comments just posted a treasure trove of evidence from the trial, apparently released today by the court:

Evidence posted at District Court website:

Includes several videos, including this blast from the past — the deposition of the infamous William Tam:

What’s your favorite Tam quote?

UPDATE FROM EDEN: As Adam noted earlier, Ted Olson and David Boies are being interviewed right now by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Interview started at 6:16 PST.

UPDATE FROM EDEN: Caitlin Maloney, the Courage Campaign Institute’s Data Director, is at the San Francisco rally and march. She says there are thousands marching from the Castro to the Civic Center. Pictures may be coming soon!

And here they are, from rally participant Alan Beach-Nelson, marching with Caitlin and company:

Prop 8 victory! Thousands march in San Francisco (August 4, 2010)

Prop 8 overturned: Celebration rally in San Francisco (August 4, 2010)
(Courtesy of Alan Beach-Nelson)

What an inspiring and moving scene!

In the left-hand lower corner of the photo above, I can see Sarah Callahan, the Courage Campaign Institute’s COO, with her child Jack and Caitlin Maloney, our Data Director (in brown). Wish I was there with the Courage team. (I’m actually only a few miles away, but have to stay on the computer to keep updating the Trial Tracker!).

Prop 8 overturned! Harvey Milk and the Castro's Rainbow flag

Harvey Milk’s spirit is alive and well. And he was “represented” at the march as well — check out the black-and-white face above the Castro flag being unfurled for the march above.

Prop 8 overturned! SF Civic Center rally
(Courtesy of Raffael Alva)

If any of you have links to pictures of video from rallies happening across the country, please post them in the comments!

UPDATE BY EDEN: News coming in (and pics soon hopefully) from the West Hollywood celebration. The L.A. Times is there and interviewed Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign Institute’s Chair and Founder:

Celebrators carried signs saying “Equality Now” and waved miniature rainbow flags. Among the participants was Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign Institute, an organizing network that pushes for equality.

“The work is just beginning. We have to change the way people think before it gets to the Supreme Court,” Jacobs said. He said they’re working toward that goal with an online project where gays and lesbians can share their stories. “Gay people and lesbians are great parents, partners in marriage and families,” Jacobs said.

Rick is talking about the next phase of Testimony: Equality on Trial. Stay tuned for more details!

81 Comments August 4, 2010

On Monkeys and Marriage

By guest poster Jennifer Alesio

[Note from Julia. Jen is a practicing attorney in San Francisco and last weekend got engaged to Courage Campaign Equality Hub Manager Caitlin Maloney, aka Cait, aka Caitie. Caitlin will be writing more tomorrow about their engagement.]

Thursday night, while driving home from work and admiring my ring (forget cell phones, I would love to see a study on traffic incidents caused by the newly engaged for precisely this reason), Terry Gross was interviewing Randal Keynes, author of “Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin.” She had Mr. Keynes read the opening paragraph of his book:

When 29, Charles Darwin thought about marrying. He took a piece of paper and wrote: “This is the question.” Under “Not Marry” he jotted down: “Freedom to go where one liked – choice of society and little of it. Conversation of clever men at clubs. Not forced to visit relatives and to bend in every trifle – to have the expense and anxiety of children – perhaps quarreling – loss of time… How should I manage all my business if I were obliged to go every day walking with my wife. Eheu! I never should know French, or see the Continent, or go to America, or go up in a balloon.”

Under “Marry,” he wrote: “Children, if it please God, constant companion and friend in old age who will feel interested in one.” He weighed up the points for and against and made up his mind. “My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life like a neuter bee, working, working and nothing after all. No, no, won’t do. Imagine living all one’s days solitary in smoky, dirty London house. Only picture to yourself a nice, soft wife on a sofa with a good fire and books and music perhaps… Marry – Marry – Marry. Q.E.D.” [Emphasis added, full transcript of interview available here]

I’d been engaged to Caitie for 5 days when I heard this quote. Some 20 minutes later, I hauled my work-weary, be-suited self up the stairs to our apartment to find Cait in much the same position described by the 29 year-old Darwin (well, “wife on sofa with a good fire and books and music” does read a little better than “fiance on a futon with an electric wall heater and a macbook,” but you take my point). I don’t think I could have been more sublimely happy.

I mentioned this quote to Caitie over dinner and didn’t really think about it again until this morning when I came across Andrew Sullivan’s clever little mash-up of a title: “The Snopes Trial” referencing a particularly hilarious and disturbing exchange during Friday’s proceedings between Defense Expert Tam and plaintiffs’ counsel David Boies. (Jokes are always less funny when explained, but is a rumor-debunking site, and the Scopes Trial, of Inherit the Wind fame, was the 1926 Tennessee state court trial which went head on at issues surrounding the teaching of evolution in schools – Brian’s Jan. 17 post touched on this case.)

Not to mix constitutional apples and oranges (or monkeys and marriage, as the case may be), but analogies to the famous trial debating Darwin and the bible have been flying around on both sides of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (including a couple of mentions on this site, see Rick’s Jan. 15 post and the LA Times). Likewise, over on the right, Perry has been derided as a “Scopes-style show trial” and, in all fairness, the similarities in terms of optics are striking. Both trials had media-savvy legal superstars at the helm (Darrow then, Olson and Boies now), were held on a level of abstract debate not often encountered in a courtroom (at least not any that I’ve been in recently – no offense to my colleagues or the Judges down at San Francisco Superior Court) and both have included heated exchanges focusing on “clashes” between peer-reviewed scientific research and faith-based perspectives, but that’s where resemblance stops.

The constitutional questions are of course distinct: Scopes was an ACLU sculpted state court case turning on questions of free speech and the establishment clause, while Perry is a federal case aimed squarely at fundamental rights and equal protection. Also, it is probably worth a mention that Scopes was ultimately unsuccessful (at least in the short term). That said, the fundamental difference between Perry and Scopes (and why Perry hopefully be in the same pantheon as Loving v. Virginia, Brown v. Board and more recently Romer v. Evans for plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face injustices that were set right by the Supreme Court) is that there is a heck of a lot more at stake in Perry than the heady abstraction of test cases on constitutional theory: for example, my wedding! Lest one think that I have degenerated into bride-zilla in less than one week, I suspect that few Tennessee high school students were kept awake at night worrying about whether or not they would be permitted to learn about “Origin of the Species.” I am actually engaged [temporarily distracted by my ring again] to a wonderful, beautiful woman [permanently distracted by Cait] and even Charles freakin’ Darwin understood that, in reality, nothing else could be as important.

Given the pace of the appellate process, it is unlikely that we’ll see a final resolution in Perry before Cait and I — and thousands of couples like us — are married. So (and I’m really asking!), do we get married in New Hampshire (where Cait’s from) or do we get a license there and then head to the place where we’d both actually like to have our wedding (Jersey Shore. Yes, THAT Jersey Shore)? This decision is particularly fraught for both of us as marriage equality is Cait’s line of work and law is mine. That we are able to have a legal wedding, just like all of our straight friends and family, is something that matters deeply to both of us. That the location of our wedding might have been determined by 20 weak-kneed New Jersey state senators, is still infuriating.

Fortunately, the state stays out of the engagement business, and ours could not have been more perfect (Cait probably could have done with out the 11th hour ring arrival – more on that from her later) but wherever we end up getting married and whatever the state of the law is at that time, I’ll still be marrying my Caitie, and ain’t life grand?

30 Comments January 23, 2010

Pound Prop 8: Tracking the Trial Tweets

By guest poster Laura Kanter, a Deputy Field Organizer for the Courage Campaign

Perhaps it is because I’m Jewish, a Lesbian, married to a Black woman and living in Orange County that I am so highly attuned to the propaganda generated by the proponents of prop 8. Maybe there is something in my historical memory that insists that I be hyper-alert to dangerous rhetoric, given the knowledge that for centuries, propaganda has been used to stigmatize, marginalize, oppress, violate, and annihilate people like my wife and me. Like so many others, I was looking forward to watching the trial broadcast on YouTube because I knew that people would finally get to see for themselves the bigotry and lies that were at the heart of prop 8; they would get to see the testimonies of Kristin Perry & Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami & Jeffrey Zarrillo. Surely this would move many hearts and minds, regardless of the verdict.

When the media started paying attention to the battle over whether or not the trial would be broadcast, I noticed the comments coming from the defense. We know they didn’t want people to hear and see the testimonies; broadcasting the trial would prevent them from spinning the facts and might allow a reasonable public to hear the truth and identify with the very sympathetic plaintiffs. But with their spin, the propaganda began. Once again, they were attempting to control the public perception of gays and lesbians. There they were on the major news networks, talking about risking the safety of their clients and their clients’ families, and about needing to protect “the children.” This is the same propaganda that was used to dehumanize Blacks here in America and abroad, and Jews (and LGBTs), in nazi Germany. The rhetoric makes us into predators who pray on children and angry, out-of-control monsters who will destroy civilization.

I used to think that any reasonable person could see that the assertions made by the proponents of prop 8 were based in fear and hatred and were simply ridiculous. Sadly, however, as day 8 witness William Tam, so acutely demonstrated, people often accept what they are told as long as it fits into their cognitive schema. In many ways, the very extreme Dr. Tam is the quintessential American right wing voter. Or, as Brian Leubitz described him in another Trial Tracker blog post, “… that Cute Ignorant Uncle That Everybody Cringes At.” During his testimony, Tam indicated that he believed that in the Netherlands, the legalization of same sex marriage was followed by the legalization of polygamy and incest. (I commented that Dr. Tam got his data from wikipedophelia.) When asked where he got this information, he replied that someone found it on the internet, showed it to him and he believed it. This is exactly why prop 8 passed and how groups like Tam’s, Protect Marriage, and Alliance Defense Media get away with lie after lie after lie.

The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court not to broadcast the trial was devastating. We were so hopeful that finally the scare quotes and lies generated by the anti-LGBT movement would be brought to light. Sadly, we were again denied the support of our government and left to fend for ourselves. At least this was nothing new.

Fortunately, by 8:31 a.m. on the very first day, a new way to bear witness to the trial emerged on twitter and then through the Courage Campaign Trial Tracker.

When I first started following the tweets, I noticed that the tweet lists that people had created did not include any of the prop 8 proponents. Once I started seeing the tweets, especially those coming from the Alliance Defense Fund (@ADFMedia) and Protect Marriage (@protectmarriage), I added them to my list and made it my personal mission to at least try to bring attention to their lies and hold them accountable for their words. Thus my obsession takes hold.

Using a tweet list , I started “tweet tracking” (say that three times fast) the comments from the prop 8 proponents to see how they aligned with what the other tweeters were saying. I don’t think we have had many opportunities to see spin spun on the spot like this and it was both fascinating and at the same time maddening. Its not like I hadn’t heard all this propaganda before; it was just so blatantly not what was going on in the courtroom. (more…)

141 Comments January 23, 2010

William Tam: He’s like that Cute Ignorant Uncle That Everybody Cringes At

by Brian Leubitz

I dropped in to the overflow courtroom to join Rick for a while today. I just couldn’t stay away from the testimony of William Tam.  For those of you not able to make it into the courtroom, I think that the William Tam testimony just might be the highlight of the Prop 8 Trial Renactment Series.

While I was watching Tam squirm in the witness, I was brought back to my youth. I had that uncle that everybody seems to have. The one who would make inappropriate jokes, or say things that just made jaws drop. But with Tam, it wasn’t so much that he was gruff, or trying to be a jokester, just that he simply held some deeply disturbing views.  I expected at any moment for him to just stand up and say “just kidding! Got you big-time, you don’t think I actually believe that garbage, do you? Ha-ha!”

Suffice it to say he never said that. But what he did play was the sympathy card.  More than once, he tried to go for the “aw-shucks, you city lawyers are just too smart for me” card. At the beginning of this liveblog post, Rick points out that Tam said “that Boies is using his legal expertise to pin my words in way I did not intend.” But, from just the plain language, it is hard to argue that what Tam said was anything but some of the most salacious and offbase anti-gay propaganda that I’ve seen outside of the Klan or other similar hate groups.

And Boies just shreds whatever logic or reasonable basis that Tam had for his statements:

Boies: You said that you thought Prop. 8 would lead to legalizing prostitution. Why?
Tam: Measure K in SF. I saw some homosexuals hanging around there.
B: You know that Measure K has nothing to do with Prop. 8.
T: Yes.

So, his first argument was that he saw some homosexuals hanging around San Francisco’s Prop K, a poorly drafted attempt to decriminalize prostitution. Not that all people who supported Prop 8 supported Prop K, or vice versa. Just that he saw some homosexuals hanging around it.  Well, as somebody intricately involved in San Francisco politics, I can assure you that many in the LGBT community opposed Prop K, including elected leaders and much of the community.  Prop K had nothing, whatsoever, to do with the LGBT community or Prop 8, and Tam acknowledges that. By the way, Prop K lost by a wide margin, even in a city that Tam said was “controlled by homosexuals.”

But that line in the gay agenda that Tam thrusts upon the community pales in comparison to the offensive claim that tops off Tam’s flyer.

B: You told people that next will be legalizing sex with children. That’s the homosexual agenda. Do you believe this?
T: Yes.
T: Asks and B gives permission to talk. “I’m afraid of the liberal trend. Canada and Europe are liberal and they allow age of consent 13 or 14 and children can have sex with adults and each other.”)
B: You did not mention age of consent in the fourteen words you wrote?
T: No.
B: Age of consent has nothing to do with this [But Tam admitted that he told people that’s what would happen if 8 lost.] Age of consent did not change because of passage of ss marriage in Canada or Europe, right?
T: Canada right. I cannot say about Europe.

But this is more than merely patently offensive, it is just plain factually incorrect. And it takes just a few moments of Googling (or binging, whichever you prefer) to figure that one out. Same-sex marriage became the law of the land in Canada in 2005. At the time, the age of consent in Canada was, in fact, 14 years. However, in 2008, while same-sex marriage was legal in Canada, the age of consent was raised to 16.  By Tam’s logic, he should be arguing that it is clear that the gay agenda includes an item of increasing the age of consent.

But, of course, the problem with Tam is his rejection of logic. He uses innuendo and vague emotional statements about the welfare of children, and then depends on the website of NARTH, an ex-gay group condemned by mainstream mental health professionals, over accredited, peer-reviewed scientific studies from real professionals. This has nothing to do with what is going on in the real world, but what is going on in a few small minds.

76 Comments January 21, 2010

Liveblogging Day 8: Daily Summary

By Julia Rosen

Wow! What a day. Dr. William Tam was the star of the show today. The comments were flooding in as Trial Trackers obsessively refreshed the page.

But before Tam took his seat on the witness stand, Dr. Segura finished his testimony. Then all eyes turned to Tam who brought the crazy, as everyone expected. The Prop 8 lawyers did their best, filing objection after objection to keep Tam and evidence out of the court record, but Judge Walker let it fly.

Note: Be sure to stick around. Brian Leubitz has a post on Tam going live in a little bit and Robert Cruickshank will be writing later about how today’s SCOTUS decisions on corporate dollars in politics relates to Prop 8.

With that said, here is your daily summary of Rick Jacobs’ liveblogging. He will be back tomorrow as the plaintiffs finish their case and the defense starts calling their witnesses. (more…)

45 Comments January 21, 2010

Liveblogging Day 8: Part VI more from Tam

By Rick Jacobs

[The direct exam of former Defendant-Intervenor Dr. William Tam by David Boies continue]

David Boies (B): Your document here says that civil unions were passed in Sweden in 1994 and now siblings can marry.

William Tam (T): Yes.

B: You said you support civil unions but here siblings can marry after it was passed in Sweden.

T: Yes.

[Back and forth about difference between civil union and domestic partnerships.]

T: I believe if marriage is beyond a man and a woman that any person can come to ask for marriage for incest and polygamy. If this is a civil right what would stop anyone from using marriage. (more…)

329 Comments January 21, 2010

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