Cleve Jones

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

Filed By Cleve Jones | June 16, 2010 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, Courage Campaign, David Boies, gay marriage, Harvey Milk, LGBT rights, marriage equality, Prop 8 trial, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, Ted Olson

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 this morning, 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.

Testimony is a natural outgrowth of the events that have happened in the trial. It is our way of bringing the truth of the trial to the public.

During two weeks of riveting testimony back in January, an unlikely duo of plaintiff's attorneys - former Bush v. Gore adversaries Ted Olson and David Boies - presented the unvarnished truth about LGBT families in the most eloquent of terms. In doing so, they thoroughly debunked the lies perpetuated by everyone from Anita Bryant to the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) as being devoid of reason or scientific basis.

"We think that every American should have seen the wonderful education that this trial was." -Ted Olson Esq., Attorney for the Plaintiffs, Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, Courage Campaign Conversation, 6/9/10

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.

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Cleve, you probably dont remember, but we knew each other back in the mid 70s before my then-boyfriend Steve and I moved to SF in 1977.

Hopefully you wont mind a side question to your column, but what's going on with the Quilt? Where is it being stored these days?

Renee Thomas | June 16, 2010 8:49 PM

And they ring truest for those individuals in our "Community" who stray farthest from the socially constructed (and presumably broadly sanctioned) identities much discussed in today's closing arguments.

It's not freedom until we are each truly free to be who we are.

Cleve Jones wants to ensure that we are always a "minority." Laws will never make us equal.

The "profound shift" in public opinion is the result of many people sharing with friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. This trial doesn't "create equality" for the "Stonewall Generation" any more than the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended racism or "created" any equality for Blacks.

Laws are faux "protections" and they only punish bad behavior.

Stop using the word "equality" when you are really talking about "laws protecting a minority." They are very different. Also, please think about whether we want to be a "protected minority" or just equal.

Read Harvey's speech again. And, give back the quilt and the megaphone.

Andrew you need to go to church.

No, we need to go to Brunch.

Renee Thomas | June 17, 2010 11:29 AM

" . . . Laws will never make us equal . . ."

So says Andrew

Sorry Andrew, wrong again . . .

To the extent that passage of laws compel otherwise fair-minded but ignorant people to look at and subsequently check their unexamined bigotry - laws do encourage lawful behavior. Fully three generations of the majority of Americans treat as a settled issue (at least in most public pronouncement) the full civil rights of minority citizens of color. Where problems in that assertion continue to crop up, there now exists a well established and generally consistant body of federal civil rights law to address and adjudicate those issues.

For the otherwise law-abiding, the passage of just laws (or enduring legal precedence) serves to continuously remind us all to be guided by our better angels.

Like you said:

"laws do encourage lawful behavior."

The do not make us "equal." The Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn't end racism. Recent polls indicate nearly one-third of all Americans are still "racist." Laws didn't do that, but I will agree they punished those that were caught, which isn't a deterrent.

Racism (and other forms of bigotry) die when the ideas die - when the old people that harbor those beliefs die. Racism is almost non-existent in people under the age of 25. The same is true for Christian-inspired anti-gay beliefs. It's mostly the older generation that clings to those beliefs. That's what they were "taught." You can't erase those beliefs with laws or punishments, you can only do that with understanding and the end of those 'teachings."

Laws to protect us are the default goal of LGBT persons. If that's all we can get, we'll take it, but full equality is far better than "Equal Rights." That should be the primary goal.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Andrew, but in some parts of the country, racism's back on the rise, as people of all ages look for any kind of scapegoat for the recession. It's not a concept that's dying an easy death.

Maybe laws dont work 100% of the time, but they at least provide a structure and a framework. I dont think you can tell me that, had the Civil Rights Act passed, minorities would be just as well off.

Provide some evidence that "racism is on the rise."

One-third of America admits to being "racist" or harboring any "racist feelings." That is half what it was in the 1960s. Laws didn't do that, understanding did, plus the welcome death of racists.

These figures directly correspond to whether something is being taught - either by institutions (churches, schools, etc.) or people.

Churches are still teaching that "homosexuality is wrong, sinful and deviant." Laws won't stop that teaching.

I'm sorry: do you not have access to a TV or newspaper or online information? I'm not saying these are the barometers to which we measure everything, but only a fool would look at the political schisms in our country today and think to himself, "Oh there's no problem here." Only a fool would look at the huge spike in gun and ammunition sales since the election of a black president and think "There's no upswing in racism in America!"

Right, Andrew. We're all singing kumbayah.

And if you honestly dont think humans are inherently defective, as you note in your next post, kindly explain how we'have been unable to get past one single day of all human existence without at least a few wars going on someplace. Not one, sunshine. Sure, we love to talk abot peace and love and all that, but we have a predispostion to hostilty. Hell, your own posts demonstrate it. This is part of our hard wiring, passed down from our CroMagnon days, when suspicion was a survival technique. And suspicion by its very nature, rises from fear of the unknown, which is also a part of our multi-millenial hard wiring as human beings.

You haven't quantified your statement, you have simply provided your opinion about an increase in racism, while polls have consistently shown a decline in racism. Do you at least have some sales figures for purchases of "guns and ammunition?"

Please provide more than your overwhelmed-with-fear opinion. Racism was taught. Bigotry is still taught. Studies on children that are not subjected to those teachings do not demonstrate this "inherent suspicion." It has to be taught.

Most wars can be directly related to religion, oddly enough the same people that have taught racism, bigotry and discrimination. (Bill Perdue can add to that).

Perhaps you are a Christian and you have that fundamental belief that we are "imperfect" beings. That's a story, a religious story. Study your "hard-wired" claims, too. There is no evidence that we are predisposed to anything but survival. We are not born with hate or malice in our hearts - we learn that.

Racism was taught and promoted by religious institutions for centuries and that's only been disappearing during the last few decades. Episcopalians are the only denomination that actually apologized for those teachings and the support of slavery. As those teachings have declined and the older folks who pass them on to their children die off it has lessened dramatically. Check the numbers.

The same is true for anti-gay bigotry. It's source is the institutions that have taught it for centuries - religious institutions. The majority of young people today support our full equality in an amount equal to their rejection of religious dogma or doctrine. The bigoted beliefs of many Christians continues to decline as it is taken less seriously. Only one-third of Christians believe the Bible as the "literal" word of God. Forty years ago it was two-thirds. The fastest growing segment of our population during the past few decades is the "non-religious" or "spiritual." Check the numbers.

There will be racists for a long time and there will also be bigots, but they are declining and even approaching minority status in America. They are being marginalized by their own crazy behavior and the reasoning minds of young people. Check the numbers.

If Prop 8 only included voters under the age of 45 we would have won by a 60-40 margin. Old ideas and beliefs are dying. Check the numbers.

The sky isn't falling Mr. Little.

No one said it was, Mr. Big.

But whatever. No one's changing your mind, that's for sure. :-)

Again, "whatever" isn't evidence, it's quitting. Evidence or at least some rationale could change my mind.

I encourage you to look into the data and understand how our collective beliefs are changing and why they are changing. That's the secret to achieving our equality.

Yes, quitting, because it's a pointless exercise. You are so adamant in your position that you cannot see it past it, and I have no further desire to play that game, sorry.

Unlike you, I just look around me and *see* what's going on. I dont consult university studies or papers or anything like that. My experience is, as you would probably say, anecdotal.

But it's never failed me.

Sorry, continue to prattle on to amuse yourself. I have better things to do.

Have a nice day, eh?

I don't think the pursuit of answers to obtain our equality is a "pointless exercise," but you can have your opinion.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 17, 2010 2:32 PM

AW tells us that "Racism is almost non-existent in people under the age of 25."

You'll have to pardon him, because AW lives on Mars.

One Metric of Class of Citizenship.

If you're a 15 year old homeless youth...

Go to a Catholic homeless youth shelter.

Class 1 (Straight) can be open about their sexuality
Class 2 (Gay) has to remain closeted.
Class 3 (Trans) has to sleep in the corridor
Class 4 (Intersexed) is ejected when they find out

Rick Sours | June 17, 2010 8:19 AM

As a read and reread the various postings, I was a little confused in that discrimination is still occurring yet overlooked/dismissed.

In the last several years we have objected several Gay/Lesbian couples who have in retirement moved to communities only to be forced to move due to harassment.

Rick Sours | June 17, 2010 8:22 AM

correction: observed

Glad to see your first post here, Cleve. I'll be sure to go check out the site.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 17, 2010 1:26 PM

One of the key items that caught my attention was the argument by the Prop 8 lawyers requesting the court to set aside recognition of the 18,000 or so same sex marriages performed in California in the brief time it was legal.

The central sponsors of Prop 8 include the roman cult, the mormon hierarchy and Rick Warrens dominationist evangelicals. Not coincidentally some of these same groups active in Africa and elsewhere spreading their gospel of hate and violence.

The roman cult archbishop of Mozambique, Francisco Chimoio issued a pastoral letter saying that condoms and HIV/AIDS meds have been deliberately infected with the HIV virus. Hundreds of people are infected every day in Mozambique and in other countries where christer abstinence is held up as a preventive. According to the BBC " Catholics make up 17 percent of Mozambique's population. More than 16 percent of Mozambique's 19 million people, mostly aged between 14 and 49, are infected with HIV/AIDS. About 500 infections are recorded every day, according to the health department. AIDS patients occupy more than 50 percent of Mozambique’s hospital beds."

All over Africa cuts in spending due to the global 'long recession' and the continued propaganda against condoms and for abstinence are fueling the crisis. Associated Press By Donna Bryson Friday, May. 28, 2010 - JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Doctors are being forced to turn away people with HIV/AIDS - meaning they will fall ill and almost certainly die" in "Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe..."

In Uganda a far more sinister christer intervention is leading to the possibility of mass murder of GLBT folks. For years Obama's political bedmate Warren and other dominationists have invested millions in Uganda aimed at creating a christer state and murdering us.

One way or another these christer thugs seem to be out to get us. They bought the Parliament of Uganda and paid for the 'legal' pogrom bill still under consideration with one goal in mind - importing it to other countries if it's successful. The events in California and in Africa are linked by having the same sponsors. This is fair warning for those bamboozled into thinking we're advancing unchecked towards utopia.

John Shannon | June 17, 2010 1:56 PM

Your comment sounds a bit like the reasoning of Republican Quasi-Libertarian Rand Paul. With all of the current right-wing hypocrtitical rants about upholding the 'Constitution' and calling for no Government intervention into people's personal lives (except of course if they perform gay sex and want an abortion)....I think that all minorities (and yes..GBLT people ARE a minority...subject to persecution for centuries and most horrifically along with Jews, the retarded and disabled, Gypsies, disregarded nationalities, and political disidents in modern day Nazi Germany...and similarly systematically discriminated in the USA much like African Americans...and let us not forget Japanese American citizens during WWII) MUST appeal to the power of the Federal Courts in order to overthrow the small mindednes of the arrogant, religiously motivated, and prjudiced majorities. NOT doing so leaves us vulnerable to the whims of those who will NEVER 'give' us our God-Given Inalienable RIGHTS.

We're not a "minority" if our sexuality is not an issue. We'd be equal. Isn't that what you want?

Renee Thomas | June 17, 2010 6:24 PM

Andrew your reasoning remains tortured, circular and vapid. Come to think of it, it has a good deal in common with lawyer Cooper's closing arguments . . . in truth; I keep waiting for you to regale us with a cogent argument, only to be continuously disappointed.

Renee Thomas | June 17, 2010 8:07 PM

Dear Andrew,

Laws serve to provide a consistent and comprehensible framework of remedies to address discrimination when it departs the church house and intrudes into the public square.

Laws are written (and enforced) as the bulwark against unchecked "human nature"

I am simply aghast that you seem to require this level of explanation to understand just how bankrupt your philosophical position truly is.


Do you really believe that racism and bigotry are "unchecked human nature?" There is NO evidence that human beings are, or even want to be, bigoted. That is simply absurd. People are taught that. Pass a law to stop the teaching, but don't suggest we need laws to control "human nature." Humans must be taught to hate or discriminate.

You fail to address whether or not laws change minds. Whether or not they change what people believe. When the Civil Rights Act was passed people that had racism in their beliefs simply changed how they handled the situation. If "unqualified" could no longer be because they were "black," they simply chose another word.

If you have some evidence that people obey "laws" and actually change their beliefs, please provide that.

Plus, tell me why you want to be permanently defined as a "protected class?" Why you want to be forever defined as a "minority?" Wouldn't you rather be "equal?"

Renee Thomas | June 17, 2010 11:59 PM

Absolute, patent nonsense . . .

Humans are herd animals conditioned by evolution to fear and discriminate against those who do not look like us. Bigotry doesn’t die Andrew, we recognize its ancient hold upon our primitive psyche's and we choose, as individuals - in every generation, to rise above it.

"Humans are herd animals conditioned by evolution to fear and discriminate against those who do not look like us."

Conditioned by "evolution?" Perhaps you meant to say humans are herded into churches and TAUGHT bigotry. It isn't our human nature to hate each other and countless studies have demonstrated that.

I don't think human beings are inherently defective. You do. Prove it.

Renee Thomas | June 18, 2010 2:11 PM


I'm gonna go out on a limb here to suggest that my view may be shared by more than a few others . . .

You are quite simply not worth the effort

Well, you believe humans are defective and I don't. I believe I correctly guessed where you got that belief.

Reminds me of that story about the doctor who was asked by the patient about his looming hemorrhoid surgery. The Doctor said well let me explain it this way, God didn't make you a perfect asshole so I'm going to do just that.

Reminds me of that story about the doctor who was asked by the patient about his looming hemorrhoid surgery. The Doctor said well let me explain it this way, God didn't make you a perfect asshole so I'm going to do just that.

Andrew has made a good point here about people learning to hate through religious education.

I had a talk with a female Jewish friend who remarked that she felt it was very odd that Christian groups use Jewish law to justify oppressing LGBT people.

In her view, the anti-gay religious right needed to catch up with contemporary Isreal:

The fact that LGBT people in Israel have the benefit of anti-discrimination laws on the books seems to make it a good case study for Andrew's assertions about laws not helping foster equality.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area I would have to disagree with Andrew. Anti-discrimination laws here have changed hearts and minds over time.

I've lived here of and on since the 70s and can witness to the fact that the political center has shifted to normalize LGBT experience.

I feel I can safely say that the legal work of Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones and millions of other people have done to make life better for the upcoming generations of gay people has not been wasted.

To the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to be found each Sunday in many local churches where LGBT lives are happily celebrated in all their diverse dimensions.,%20Appendix%20B.pdf

berkeley7 | June 20, 2010 3:19 AM

I agree with Andrew about the problem of churches teaching hatred.

I disagree however with the idea that anti-discrimination laws haven't won hearts and minds for LGBT communities.

Here in the SF Bay Area life for LGBT people is much improved over how it was 30 years ago.

And much different in church as well. Now many churches in this neck of the woods want to go on record as being inclusive.

Most work to distance themselves from the hatred and align themselves with those who celebrate the lives of LGBT people.

Here it's a much better world due to the work of Harvey Milk, Cleve and those who have been inspired by their vision.

"Here in the SF Bay Area life for LGBT people is much improved over how it was 30 years ago."

That's simply because of the cultural conversation which has helped people better understand gay people and the reality that people are becoming less serious about religion.

"And much different in church as well. Now many churches in this neck of the woods want to go on record as being inclusive."

Inclusive isn't enough. They need to stop the teaching that "homosexuality is wrong, sinful and deviant." Simply hanging a rainbow flag and playing an occasional showtune on the church organ, isn't enough.

berkeley7 | June 21, 2010 5:16 PM

Two excellent points Andrew.

Inclusive is not enough.

"We're inclusive" sometimes feels like just enough reason to distrust churches until there is some solid evidence they have changed their showtunes.

And yes the cultural conversation has helped understanding.