Alex Blaze

Mais je rêve: More from the Prop 8 trial on queer political power

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 21, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: federal court, Gary Sagura, gay marriage, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, trial, violence

Back in San Francisco, the homophobes had a chance to cross examine Prof. Gary Segura, who was there to testify that gays and lesbians (they stuck to those categories) aren't politically powerful. My eyes rolled when I saw that apparently there was a debate on the topic - of course we aren't! That's why nothing's happening! But then I forget the secret, powerful, rich gay cabal that's actually running the government (which the homophobes actually brought up in court, more after).

It is an important argument, though, because it ended up being a key point in Justice Scalia's dissent in Romer, the case that turned over an anti-gay ballot initiative in Colorado over a decade ago. If we're politically powerful, then it means that we don't really need the courts' protections. If we're politically powerful, then it means that people don't really hate us, they just don't like the idea of same-sex marriage. And if we're politically powerful, it's easier to create fear and loathing around us (negating the political power, but, whatever).

More on the specific arguments as to how we're politically powerful, as well as the homophobes' examples of our violence towards them. First, though, a different federal judge said that the Courage Campaign is allowed to keep their satirical logo up on their website. ProtectMarriage.com asked a judge to make them stop, because, you know, if the gays can make fun of their logo then the terrorists have won.

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The transcripts aren't up yet, and the trial won't be YouTubed. But Rick Jacobs is doing a great job live-blogging, and you can read his Segura liveblogs for more information.

The defense claims we're politically powerful

Former presidents supported our side of Prop 8:

T: Sen. Feinstein[he says Fine-steen, which is not how she pronounces her name. Thompson loves talking about Jews. Loves it.] opposed Prop. 8. And she is very popular.
S: Yes, although her popularity waxes and wanes.
T: And Boxer.
S: Yes.
T: And Schwarzenegger?
S: But he vetoed same sex marriage twice.
T: Because it contradicted Prop. 22?
S: I don't know.
T: And President Obama opposed the passage of Prop. 8?
S: Yes, but his support for that was muted by other things he said.
T: You refer to his appearance at Saddleback Church at which he said marriage is between a man and a woman?
S: I suppose so.
T: And president Clinton and he's very popular in California?
S: Yes, but I'm not sure that he's still so popular here.
T: Did any former presidents support passage of Prop. 8?
S: I don't know.

Corporations threw some cash our way:

T: Reads press release from EQCA that says that Levi Strauss and PG&E joined business council against 8 and gave money. Points out that Levi gave $250,000. Is this an asset to LG?

Sometimes anti-gay ballot initiatives don't pass:

T: You also talked about initiatives and the number that have passed or not targeting gays and lesbians. Number that were held in CA?
S: No.
T: Percentage of initiatives that targeted gays and lesbians in CA and passed?
S: No, since I don't know how many occurred here.
T: "Lose, Win or Draw: Effects of Direct Democracy..." this is an article you used in preparation for this testimony? Have you attempted to determine whether gays and lesbians have been winning more initiatives recently?
S: No, I did not disaggregate.
T: Puts in as evidence with this appendix that shows the specific number of elections.

Not every religion is against us:

T: Goes through Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists to say their religious views informed their votes on SS marriage.
S: Yes, but tiny.
T: 100% of Quakers?
S: All three of them, yes.
T: It's your data set. Jews? Many voted against same sex because of religion?
S: Not sure that's true.

It's all so convincing. I don't know how the fact that every state where an anti same-sex marriage constitutional amendment has been tried has one, we don't have basic federal legislation passed even with a Democratic supermajority and a Democratic White House, and that we're continuously discriminated against in the job market can compete against arguments with such breadth and depth.

Gays gone wild: Homophobes' examples of gay-on-straight violence

I've been waiting for this part, since usually their evidence of violence from gay rights activists is laughably weak. They didn't have much more in court, nothing to really outweigh the fact that the vast, vast, vast majority of violence committed because of sexual orientation in the last century has gone in one direction: homophobe on homosexual.

But they brought in their examples. Here's a woman that says she was attacked in San Diego:

[Video from SD showing that there was a physical fight over Prop. 8. An old lady shows up with bruises on her face because she had a yes on 8 sign. Proud to show their support on their front lawn. "When I put up my sign, I noticed that my neighbor put up his little sign. That probably provoked him..." Arrested 53 year old man who did.]
[UPDATE] 9:59
T: Wouldn't a video of an old woman with a bandage over her eye because she put up a Prop. 8 sign hurt the no side?
S: I can't say what happened, but such a video is inflammatory.

Can't find anything about that online without more specific information.

An idiotic lawn sign squabble:

T: Reads news report about fight in Carlsbad, CA between people who were "stealing" prop. 8 signs and then fought with yes side and had dog bite person. Would this hurt no side?

Hard to find anything on this that isn't from a right-wing news site, and Segura points out that the report the lawyer cites only cites ProtectMarriage.com as a source. The trial hasn't happened yet, and I can't find anything at all about what the police thought happened in that case.

Then he brings up the boycott of El Coyote:

T: Reads LAT article by Steve Lopez saying that police were called because of El Coyote boycott.

I blogged about the El Coyote boycott a while back and that Steve Lopez article straight-up exaggerated how bad the protests were. And people are allowed to boycott - no one's forced to go eat at a certain restaurant.

Last, but not least, they played Fox News in court:

Plays Bill O'Reilly, who says courts want to support gay marriage, there is no doubt. Brings on 21-year-old guest who is Christian (named Christine Cloud) who plays Christian music and has been doing so in Castro for three years. We don't stop people. "Are you trying to convert from being gay to straight?" "No, but we are hoping they'll accept Jesus Christ and have that revelation." "We wanted to be sensitive to these people. We were singing Amazing Grace. Man took my bible, "hit me upside the head with my bible, knocked me on back and kicked me." Police arrested guy, but I said I would not press charges, that I forgive you." O'Reilly tries to say that police should have arrested him. She says police did not see crime. "I don't know if we are going to be back. We are going to use wisdom, we know it is a politically charged situation." BO: "You turned the other cheek."

Yeah, the woman who plays music in the street saying they've been attacked for a reason with no police report, and then Bill O'Reilly gives it attention. So believable.

There you go. Those are your oppressed fundamentalist Christians for you. And in redirect all those points were easily refuted.

The point of the violence arguments

There are three reasons they brought up all those examples of violence.

First, they're arguing that it means that gays are powerful and are intimidating the good Christians of California. Sagura responds to that ably:

Dr. Gary Segura (S): To the extent that these acts make the already weak position of the LG community weaker, I'd agree with you. Boycotts are separate. Difficult to imagine the success of the civil rights movement without the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We can all the way back to the 1770s when women in Boston organized a boycott of English tea to see that boycotts are often instruments used by weaker parties.

Judge Walker: Just occurred to me since T is exploring this line of questioning, have you considered the riots and vandalism and other inappropriate behavior associated with the civil rights movement and associated largely with blacks and how that affected civil rights movement?

S: Yes. Any form of violence or disorderly behavior has a negative impact on the public. Non-violent protests play better. That said, it is conceivable that such outbursts may serve the long-term impact of the group. Eg, post Rodney King violence that spurred "Rebuild LA" that brought about investment in south LA. Not endorsing such acts, but there are times when such acts express powerlessness.

Even if they could prove that there were a few gay activists that got rowdy during the campaign, it doesn't mean that we're more powerful.

Second of all, it's supposed to disprove the "If we're so powerful how come nothing's happened so far" argument. The defense said repeatedly that if we're committing violence, it's turning people off, and that we're the only ones to blame for losing these fights.

In the 10,000 internal "Why do we keep on losing?" debates that have happened here on Bilerico, I don't think the "We're too violent against good Christians" explanation has come up once. Most likely because it's based on an alternate reality in which fundamentalist Christians are the real oppressed minority.

Third, it makes it easier to fear and hate gays if you think that they're controlling everything. I'm looking forward to reading the full transcript on this:

T: Reads from Time Magazine story about the Cabinet, a secret cabal of rich homosexuals who met with two sitting governors in California at the same time. Doesn't that show power?
S: It is clear that if people have money, politicians will show up to take it.
T: We can agree on that.
T: Tries to show that homosexual power is evidenced by the increase in AIDS Funding.
S: Deeply troubled by your assertion that this somehow shows political power. This is a disease that has ravaged and killed people all over the world and its incidence continues to grow. So the increase in funding is likely due to the fact that AIDS is so dangerous to so many.

The defense probably didn't go as far as they actually believe on that item. I'm sure they actually think there's a secret gay mafia controlling politics from behind the scenes, or at least there's some sort of off-shoot of the Trilateral Commission that practices regular sodomy.

But then they'd seem crazy if they made that argument in court, and they wouldn't want that.


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The argument that "gays and lesbians" have political power was successfully used in Maryland to get Maryland's highest court to rule that GLb folks are not a suspect class and, therefore, discrimination against them doesn't deserve the highest level of scrutiny. In other words, this line of argument was successfully used to uphold marriage inequality in Maryland.

The evidence of political power in MD was getting a sexual orientation-only employment nondiscrimination law and a health care decision-maker registry. Pretty pathetic.

As I recall from history books the Nazi's used the argument the Jews were controlling everything with their wealth and powerful influence as an excuse for the holocaust?

If we as a society don't stand up to this kind of malicious bulling, we haven't learned a thing from history.