45 years since the summer of Loving

Today is the 45th anniversary of the decision in Loving v Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage in the US.  With Perry v Schwarzenegger (Prop 8.) and DOMA heading to SCOTUS this year, let us hope we will soon have marriage equality for all.  Even though the cases don’t have the perfect name Loving did.

What I would like to hear from Edwina Rogers

Yes, I’ve written an imaginary PR e-mail from Edwina Rogers, the controversial new Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, based on conjectures and false hopes and a little bit of AbFab.  It seemed the thing to do.

Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the SCA

“I want to start off with an apology for something I feel like I, and the SCA, have done a poor job of.  We’ve done a poor job of introducing me and an incredibly poor job of reaching out to opinion leaders in the atheist movement.  Undoubtedly, the behind-closed-doors decision to make what was bound to be a controversial hiring decision should have been tempered by a more comprehensive and immediate introduction and explanation of why I, of all people, was chosen for this position.

I have identified as a non-theist for a long time, but I am very new to this movement.  This is not because I don’t care about the issues you care about, I very much do, but they have not been my focus and, because of that, I really didn’t realize how bad things were until recently.  My career and my focus have been very issue centered, some of these issues overlapped with my own secular beliefs, but the fact is that issue-focused work tends to create a very insular worldview.  So, in many ways, I am a recent convert, not to your beliefs, but to your cause.

Which is where I have made another mistake.  This community is very engaged and very well-informed and I have done my best to educate myself quickly, but there are things I have missed on the way.  My recollection of statistics about Republicans from 20 years ago, for example, is not really the best gauge of Republicans now.  Sometimes I forget that that was an entire generation ago, it doesn’t seem that long to me.  And I have to admit that my claims that the majority of Republicans are pro-choice, OK with gay rights, and for the separation of church and state were as much a result of wishful thinking as they were of ignorance.  I have had statistics shown to me that do indeed prove I was dead wrong on this front.

And I need your help on this front.  I am trying, but I just am not as well-educated about this as those people who have focused on this cause their whole lives.  I know the goals of the coalition and am well-versed in those goals and don’t doubt my ability to execute them, but as for the wider culture of the secular movement and the less specific goals thereof, I will need more time to learn the nuances, and I hope you will help me rather than condemning me for my neophyte status.

My final big mistake is that I’ve been trying to focus exclusively on my positives without acknowledging my negatives and without engaging with them openly and honestly.  This is a fault of being in politics, it makes you quite the bullshit artist.  I should have known better in this community than to think I could dance around questions without being called on it.  So let me say that you are right.  You are right that I’ve worked for and support a party that disagrees, in majority but not in totality, with many of your goals.  But I was working for causes that I cared very deeply about, and I will not apologize for doing that.  And I will not abandon my party because other people have taken it in a direction I disagree with.  It is better for all of us if we can bring the party back in line with the goals of the secular community and I really do think that is possible.

So, just to recap, I haven’t done a good enough job introducing myself, I haven’t had the time to educate myself as thoroughly as the community is educated, and I have not been clear on acknowledging that there were some negatives to my background.  That said, I think I bring a lot to the table that I hope you can appreciate.

I am an experienced lobbyist and I know the workings of DC very well.  I have led coalitions in the past and had great success.  Although my work with Republicans is difficult for many of you to accept, it gives me an in to people who might not otherwise be as interested in hearing what we have to say.  And I am legitimately, passionately interested in promoting this cause.  I did not simply apply because I needed a job — I had a job, one that was a lot less contentious — I applied because I have become aware of some of the horrible inequities in this country for people who are secular.  I am just as horrified as all of you at the degree of influence the Christian Right has on the government, and I want to change that.  I have the credentials to do the job from a strictly political side, but I promise you that I am here because I want to be, because this cause is important to me, and because I think that I personally can make a difference through this position with the SCA.

The SCA chose me because I was, in their opinion, the best person for the job.  I wouldn’t dream of asking you to take it on faith that theirs was the best choice, but I hope that you can give me a chance and the benefit of the doubt for a little while.  I look forward to talking with you at conferences and through our local organizations.  Together, I really do think we can change this country in meaningful ways on important issues.

Best,
Eddie”

My Unite Against the War on Women Coverage

I am everywhere today, it seems.

I am quoted in the front page story of our local independent paper, the Free Times.

The couple watches as women’s advocate Ashley F. Miller, a doctoral candidate in mass communications at the University of South Carolina, stands at a podium on the State House steps and declares, “This is not just a war on women: This is a war on dignity … 88 percent of the jobs in the recovery have gone to men. Our poverty rate is 25 percent higher than men’s poverty rate. In South Carolina, we’re still only making 76 cents on the dollar.”

America, Miller says, could turn into a place where women in some states could be arrested for having a miscarriage, while the killing of abortion doctors in others could be considered justifiable homicide. (Indeed, lawmakers in Utah and South Dakota, respectively, have introduced legislation to such effect.)

I was interviewed for Voices of Russia Radio about the rally and why it is important.  I have actually managed to sit and listen to the whole thing.  I will try to get a transcript of this for you, I thought I acquitted myself quite well.

Finally! You can watch me give my speech from the rally.  Here is a livestream video of the entire event, my speech starts at around 57 minutes.

Unitewomen.org

Why Reason Rally?

I have posted so much about the Reason Rally in the last few weeks, but I have one last thing I want to talk about: why I care so much about this event.

Many of my friends talk about this event as a rallying of the troops, a way to build morale and group identity among secular America.  Plus, it’s a big party with others like us!  This is important, absolutely, and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from those who are going for this reason, but it is not why I am going.  I am going to demand a voice.

I came to the atheist movement in a somewhat circuitous fashion.  I’ve been a non-believer since I was eight.  I found my teeth in my mother’s jewelry box and, having already been quite suspicious of the entire thing, concluded that there was no Tooth Fairy and, therefore, no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus, no Jesus, and no God.

I didn’t become vocal about my atheism until after reading Hitchens’ “God is Not Great”, but even though I cared deeply about secularism, it was not my primary cause.  I was more interested in being an activist, and I didn’t see any opportunities for activism for secular causes.  Instead, I spent my time fighting for civil rights for LGBT, women, and minorities.  When I lived in California and campaigned against Prop 8, the gay marriage ban, I finally met atheists and skeptics who were fighting, actively, for political change.

Secularists need to join one another, not only to create community and acceptance, but to demand it.  I am incredibly lucky that, despite being from South Carolina and the Bible Belt, my family tolerates my non-belief — mostly in the hope that I’ll get over it, but still.  There are so many people I know, including those who are active locally, who cannot speak publically about their lack of belief for fear of losing their families and their jobs.  There are so many people I know who have been mistreated by the religious, so many children hurt and abused because the law gives special rights to religion, and many others who feel they can never make an impact politically unless they kowtow to the Christian Fundamentalist majority in our state and our country.

Change is started, yes, by coming out of the closet, and this is a national coming out day for the non-religious, but change also comes from demanding your voice be heard politically.  The public attitude towards women, minorities, and gay people has been changed by individuals demanding a voice AND by the movements demanding legislative change and support.

I could not be more excited to see Tim Minchin and Eddie Izzard, two of my favorite performers, but I am also excited to see Sean Faircloth and Herb Silverman, who have made significant legislative impacts, and to see two brave men who serve in Congress and are willing to risk the political stigma of associating with atheists.  I am excited that we are not just speaking to ourselves anymore, we are speaking to the world, to the country, to the government that should be serving us.

We are going to Washington not just for ourselves, but because we absolutely have to.  We have a voice and we refuse to be ignored any longer.

Podcast Part II: Winning the War of Attrition

After we completed the main hour of the podcast, we continued our conversation and the guys over at “A Matter of Doubt” have been kind enough to put it up as a bonus clip.  This is where we get into the things that I am most interested in, LGBT issues, argument, and humanism.  I almost sound like I know what I’m talking about occasionally in here, even.

Yes, I’m pretty vitriolic online, and I am willing to call people wrong and be kind of… we’ll go with “emphatic”.  Somewhat dogged.  Win the war of attrition.  But in person, in real life, in real interactions, people are worth more than ideas.  People deserve to be treated well, people deserve to be loved for who they are, they deserve to be accepted.  You can have any opinion you want about their beliefs, but at some point you have to be willing to say, you know, I disagree with you and that’s not the most important thing about you.  We’re all worthy, we’re all equal, we’re all human.  And that’s the foundation of equal rights, that’s the foundation of why we care about the LGBT issues, it’s the foundation of why we think atheists should be treated the same.  And at some point you have to be willing to stop arguing.

http://www.amatterofdoubt.com/?p=187

Why does anyone like Ron Paul?

I’ve been trying to understand why smart people I know support Ron Paul and I just can’t get my head around it.  I get the sense that maybe the Ron Paul People I know just don’t realize what Ron Paul’s all about. That or they just don’t care.

The Ron Paul People I know are almost all straight, single, relatively young, non-religious, white men. Available demographics suggest that this is an accurate picture; there are others in Ron Paul’s camp, but it’s basically youngish white men.

They do not consider themselves to be Democrats or Republicans. Some of them hate the idea of rules, many of them hate the idea of having their money taken away in taxes, but none of them are stupid or without the resources to learn more about their candidate. And none seem to care about any of Ron Paul’s policies outside of cutting spending, regulations, and taxes.

Every Ron Paul Person I know comes out of the woodwork any time anything negative is said about the guy, no matter how true the statement and no matter how much that individual disagrees with Ron Paul’s position or behavior. I get the sense that libertarians are so excited to have someone on the national stage that they don’t want to see anything problematic with the guy, but he’s transparently a bad deal.

So, why are these people supporting a crazy, racist Christian fundamentalist?

Why People Love Ron Paul:

  1. He believes in reduced military spending
  2. Less taxes, less rules, less government
  3. He wants to end the “War on Drugs”
  4. He is “philosophically consistent”

That last one seems to be big — people seem to think that Ron Paul offers a coherent philosophy to deal with politics and that’s why they like him.

He’s very consistent on the whole taxes idea — he wants to get rid of the income tax, which apparently makes us all the property of the government, and his voting record shows this.  I can see the appeal, even if I totally disagree.

Ron Paul is Anti-Free Market:

But if we take this libertarian personal freedom thing to its logical conclusion, Paul would also be all for open borders and a completely open labor markets, right?  Yeah, but not so much — he’s very anti open borders.

The toughest part of showing any compassion or tolerance to the illegal immigrants … is the tremendous encouragement it gives for more immigrants to come illegally and avoid the wait and the bureaucracy.

So, bureaucracy good when it keeps the brown people out? Taxing the insanely rich is slavery! Letting foreign people work in America should be illegal!

He voted for building a fence on the Mexican border, reporting illegal aliens who go to hospitals, and for banning student visas from “terrorist nations”.  He’s all about reducing the military and allowing the free market, except when it comes to this for some reason.

Oh, it’s also great that he wants to get rid of the fed, I love this. You know who made the fed what it is today? A guy named Alan Greenspan. You know, Alan Greenspan, the most famous and powerful libertarian ever to work in the US government. He was a disciple of Ayn Rand and was part of the inner circle of her cult. Alan Greenspan almost single-handedly caused this recession. By all means, let’s fix the fed, but let us also acknowledge it was a libertarian that got us here!

Ron Paul Doesn’t Support Minorities:

He thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you know that whole equality thing, was a violation of people’s rights and wouldn’t have forced anyone to lift the Jim Crow laws. He called MLKJr day “hate whitey day”.  According to Ron Paul supporters, this is OK because he wants to legalize drugs and end the death penalty, both of which would disproportionately go to help black men.

I don’t even want to go into all of the sketchy things that he’s said, I’ll just offer you this link and be done with it.  Suffice to say, the guy’s said some unkind things about minorities.

On top of this, he wants English to be the official language of the US and thinks government shouldn’t offer services in any other language.  How’s that for federal bureaucratic overhead?

A lot of people respect his position on gay marriage, which is that it shouldn’t be the federal government’s business even though he personally is opposed to it. It may not be the federal government’s business, but he’s certainly voted to enshrine homophobic behavior in federal law. He voted against including “sexual orientation” as a protected class in ENDA, meaning he thinks it’s OK to fire people for being gay, and he voted to ban gay adoptions in DC.

Ron Paul is Against Church/State Separation:

Ron Paul has a 17% rating with the AU, meaning he almost never votes in favor of a bill that would be promoting the separation of church and state.

The guy is crazy fundamentalist, no lie. It informs most of his political positions, including right to life stuff that I’ll address in a minute. But it also includes something that maybe some of my libertarian friends agree with. Ron Paul is one of the few politicians in DC willing to say anything negative about Zionism or Israel, and I know a lot of libertarians think that we shouldn’t be Israel’s protector anymore. But do you know why he doesn’t support Israel?

Despite the fact that many Fundies, known as Premillenialists, support Israel because their end-time theology tells them that it is necessary for the return of Jesus, Christian Reconstructionists like Paul have a different view, basically that the Israeli government isn’t the right one for the end of days and the right sort of Christians are now the chosen people of Revelations.

“I think of the Israeli government as different than what I read about in the Bible. I mean, the Israeli government doesn’t happen to be reflecting God’s views. Some of them are atheist, and their form of government is not what I would support… And there are some people who interpret the chosen people as not being so narrowly defined as only the Jews — that maybe there’s a broader definition of that.”

He and Sarah Palin can get into a fight over whose Christian end of days attitude towards Israel is the right one!

He often gets accused of being anti-Semitic because he’s anti-Zionism, and he may well be, but his position on Israel is all about religion. He’s generally isolationist anyway, so it works with the rest of his shtick.

And, while his faith isn’t his number one talking point, he sure does have a statement of faith on his website and includes a reference to it in his debates.

And, despite the fact that he thinks the education department should be dismantled, he also thinks that public funds should pay for private Christian educations and supports a constitutional amendment in favor of school prayer.  Again, not a libertarian stance at all.

Ron Paul is Rabidly Anti-Choice and Anti-Science:

This goes hand in hand with the crazy religious stuff, it’s all related.

This man, who is a doctor, does not believe in evolution.

This man, who is a doctor, believes that life begins at conception.

He has a somewhat complex view on abortion in that he believes that it, like murder, should be tried and controlled at the state level, not the federal one. That said, he has voted repeatedly for national bills that promote the pro-life cause and introduced a bill that would say that life begins at conception.

He voted not to authorize embryonic stem cell research multiple times. He has a 0% by NARAL, meaning he votes 100% against abortion rights. He voted yes on the Stupak Amendment to prevent health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage. Voted to prevent funding from going to schools that make the morning after pill available and to provide funding for abstinence only education.

He cosponsored a bill to take funds from a needy family benefit program to go to support non-governmental groups that counsel people not to have abortions.

Again, how is this not federal interference?

Ron Paul Helps Billionaires Not the Poor

This section, I know, is where a lot of libertarians are going to agree with his votes, but I have to say I think they don’t reflect well on him.

He is completely against environmental regulation and trying to find alternative energy sources.  Despite his claims that he’d rather have unions control the market than a minimum wage, he voted for legalizing union busting more than once.  Despite his supposed belief in the free market, he voted to ban shareholders from weighing in on executives’ compensation.  Extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, expanded them, and undermined Social Security by changing the standards.

Voted against the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to feed children and voted against a measure to ensure children had health insurance.Voted yes on a measure to prevent federally funded laborers to be paid the prevailing wage of the area, so that people making less than a living wage could be reduced even further into poverty!

Ron Paul is a Hypocrite

He is completely inconsistent, not just philosophically as a libertarian, but also on very specific issues like federal funding to local areas.  Which brings us to his response to Katrina.  You’d think someone who was so waffley about his own philosophical convictions when it comes to women’s rights and immigrants would be willing to waffle a little to save lives, after all he’s all sanctity of life, right?

Is bailing out people that chose to live on the coastline a proper function of the federal government?

But at least his congressional district in Texas doesn’t rely on tons of federal funding, right? Oh, no, it’s one of the top in Texas. Federal government using money to save people’s lives is apparently not OK, but him earmarking funds for his district is cool. More important than Katrina victims? Removing a sunken ship from a harbor and sending a few million dollars to Texan shrimp fishermen.

Ron Paul is a Little Nuts

But of course, my favorite part about Ron Paul is that he thinks the executive branch shouldn’t have very much power. The problem with that is that if you elect Ron Paul, he can’t do anything without violating his own philosophy because he would be the executive branch of the federal government.  Ron Paul just doesn’t make sense for anyone.

He thinks we should go back to the gold standard, which I think is pretty crazy, but that’s hardly the only place he goes a bit weird. On The Daily Show he said the following, I guess suggesting that he’s for regulations after he’s against them:

The regulations are much tougher in a free market, because you cannot commit fraud, you cannot steal, you cannot hurt people, and the failure has come that government wouldn’t enforce this. In the Industrial Revolution there was a collusion and you could pollute and they got away with it. But in a true free market in a libertarian society you can’t do that. You have to be responsible. So the regulations would be tougher.

And then there’s this:

I’ve been told not to talk, but these stooges don’t scare me. Threats or no threats, I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) The Bohemian Grove–perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress’s Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica.

If people know this about Ron Paul and still want to vote for him, that’s obviously their choice, but I can’t help but feel like the only way you could vote for him would be in ignorance or denial of these facts.

Why Miley Cyrus is Cooler Than You Think: The Progressive South

What I was supposed to be when I grew up

When people meet me, even here in South Carolina, they almost always are surprised to learn that I am from the South.  I don’t have much of a Southern accent and I am not demure or interested in playing dumb.  There is, unfortunately, a prejudice that exists, even in the South itself, against people who are Southern.  There is an assumption that everyone here is stupid, poorly educated, and a redneck.

It’s not that the South hasn’t come by its reputation honestly.  There are Bible Thumpers, Tea Partiers, Second Amendment Freaks, and an education system that is more broken than not.  There are rural areas that don’t even seem like America to anyone who has lived near a town, and the problems and poverty that come with that.  But, while a Democrat may never win the state of South Carolina, 40% of the population votes for a Democrat.  You may be able to paint the South itself with a broad brush, but you lose a lot if you also paint individuals from the South with that same brush.

I have struggled over the years with embracing that I am from South Carolina, but I really am about as Southern as it gets.  I was a debutante, I was sent to cotillons when I was growing up.  My father hunts and fishes and collects rifles, my mother worked for Lee Atwater and George HW Bush.  When I was young, I spent most of my days with my babysitter/nanny who lived in a trailer park and we watched NASCAR, drank Mountain Dew, and occasionally I missed my nap and watched The Bold and the Beautiful.  The first time I ever got on a plane was to go see Graceland.

Before my breast reduction and dying my hair red, I think I could have pulled this off

And, even more embarrassingly, the thing I most wanted to be when I grew up was a country music singer.  I’ve never lost my love of singing or a (not so) secret desire to be a rock star, but I did lose my fondness for country music over the years.  But yes, there was a time when my favorite song was “Achy Breaky Heart” and I dreamed of being Dolly Parton.

I suspect many people reading this would think that this was a major handicap, something that I had to overcome to be the erudite, snarky, witty, and progressive person that I am today, but I think it was actually completely necessary for me to get here.  I only wish that I was better at embracing it and not being embarrassed by it.  In an attempt to embrace being Southern, I’m offering a paean for Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus is a lot cooler than most people realize.  I’ll be the first to admit that her devotion to her faith is not something that particularly appeals to me, but the fact that she is Southern Baptist and still open-minded is something we should be celebrating.  And I confess that her music isn’t exactly my thing, as most of the teen music I like was written by people now in their sixties.  But the really cool thing about Miley Cyrus is that she’s a bona-fide red-state American who depends on red-state Americans for her career and she hasn’t let that stop her from speaking out against what she perceives as injustice.

The only tattoo I’d consider getting

She is a vocal supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights.  This past May, she bashed both Urban Outfitters and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum for being anti-gay.  She is so in favor of gay rights that she got it tattooed on her body — an equal sign for “equal love” on her ring finger.  And when someone disagreed with her stance on Twitter, she posted, “Where does it say in the bible to judge others? Oh right. It doesn’t. GOD is the only judge honey.”  Hell yes!

She fights in favor of reasonable body images for women. When people try to shame her for her weight, she says that her accusers are part of the reason there are so many women with eating disorders and states quite clearly that she has no intention of buying into it.  “I love MYSELF & if you could say the same… I don’t wanna be shaped like a girl I LOVE being shaped like a WOMAN & trust me ladies your man won’t mind either.”  That’s a feminist message about body acceptance, and an important one for the age group that she appeals to.

It’s easy to look at Billy Ray flag waving for Republican candidates, how very Southern they are, how vocally Christian they are, and assume that they are stereotypical, uninformed conservatives.  They are not.  Her grandfather, Kentucky Colonel Ron Cyrus, was a Democrat and a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives for 21 years and he was the secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO.  It turns out that Southerners have a wide range of political beliefs.

From the video

The inspiration for this post was a video in support of the Occupy movement that she posted this week on YouTube, as part of her celebration of her 19th birthday.  Most of the response among my friends on Facebook has been shock and a little bit of poking fun at her music and at the irony that she, of all people, was the big musician to support the Occupy movement.  But actually, it is not ironic and, if you’ve followed her, it is not surprising.  It is, however, marvelous.

Their surprise I can understand, not everyone is as obsessed with LGBT activism as I am, but it is when people dismiss her entirely that I get upset.  There is an article in the National Post that made my blood boil.  The writer describes Miley’s birthday party, which apparently included a unicorn, and then goes on to discuss the Occupy video:

At the very least, it seems Cyrus is interested in showing a more socially conscious side of herself now that she’s entered the twilight years of tween stardom. Like many people, 19 or otherwise, Cyrus has apparently been following the Occupy movement, and together with Rock Mafia (the production team helmed Cyrus hits including 7 Things and Can’t Be Tamed), she Tweeted a link to a video montage featuring footage of Occupy protesters around the world. Titled “Don’t Give Up – It’s a Liberty Walk,” a remix of the pop star’s 2010 track Liberty Walk features in the video, which Cyrus posted to YouTube with the following message: “This is Dedicated to the thousands of people who are standing up for what they believe in.”

This, we can only assume, includes unicorns.

That may be the most dismissive thing I have ever read.  I’m not going to go into a rant about how wrong it is to dismiss people for being young and female, because I might explode, but that’s exactly what’s going on here.  “Oh, she’s interested in politics and unicorns, how sweet.”

Why not?

Miley Cyrus is now a player in progressive politics, not because she is a politician, but because she has a voice that is heard by millions.  This young woman isn’t part of the “Hollywood Elite” — she is from “Real America” and her fans are all from “Real America” too — she is an ambassador to the red states.  But because she is young and because she sings pop and because she is from the South, many people are tempted to dismiss her out of hand.  Her conservative critics are wise enough to be afraid that her influence will lead young Christians away from the intolerant values of their parents, perhaps we should be wise enough to be very grateful to have her on our side.  Embrace her or not, she has influence with the people progressives have the hardest time reaching.

Maybe being from the South isn’t a handicap, maybe it makes our progressive voices that much stronger.

Prop 8 Trial Today: Is Walker Too Gay to Judge?

This will be brief because I’m on my lunch break, but today in California they are deciding whether Judge Walker’s decision on Prop 8 should be thrown out because he’s gay and therefore can’t be a judge on gay rights as well as determining whether the tapes of the trial should be locked up from view or allowed to be released.

The gay rights crowd is arguing that of course you don’t throw out a decision because a judge has human traits — wouldn’t a straight man be biased for straight people?  It would never end.  They are also arguing that there is no possible harm in releasing the tapes and keeping them under lock and key is absurd and retarded.  They probably won’t say it precisely like that.

The anti-gays crowd, who KNEW THAT WALKER WAS GAY BEFORE THE TRIAL AND NEVER ASKED HIM TO RECUSE HIMSELF, are arguing that the gays can’t make legal decisions if they’re in a relationship and releasing the tapes would make their side look like complete idiots the proponent’s witnesses uncomfortable.

Prop 8 Trial Tracker has got you covered with live updates, AFER with Tweets.

I’ll write a shorthand version of whatever happens today later this evening.

Releasing the Prop 8 Videos

 

People in an open society do not demand infallibility in their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing – Chief Justice Berger

Former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial, recently used some of the video that was taken during the case as part of a lecture.  The Proponents, aka supporters of Prop 8/opposers of gay marriage, immediately took great offense and sent what was essentially a cease and desist order that demanded the return of all the copies of the tapes, Walker's and anyone else who had them.

 
In response, Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal tour de force trying to lift the gay marriage ban, filed a request that the tapes be unsealed and released to the public.  After all, the trial is a matter of public record and the transcripts are freely available.
 
Originally, the trial was going to be broadcast live, but the Proponents felt like this might scare some of their witnesses away, and so they demanded that it not be broadcast.  Judge Walker taped it, but didn't release the tapes, to the great disappointment of the men and women across the country who wanted to see the greatest trial of the greatest civil rights battle of our time.

No one can really blame the Proponents for not wanting to have video footage of just how appallingly awful their defense of Prop 8 was.  They want to continue to play the victim here — they want to sell the idea that gay marriage is somehow a violation of religious liberty, rather than being completely the other way round.  The video of their disastrous performance would only reveal that they are driven solely by religion and bigotry — and that they aren't even capable of hiding that fact.

Some things that they don't want you to see on television, things that their own anti-equality witnesses did: a witness saying that DADT and DOMA were "Official Discrimination"; that same witness then saying Prop 8 was also discriminatory; Mr. Blankenhorn, their chief witness saying, "I believe that adoption of same sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children"; Blankenhorn also saying, "We would be more American on the day we legalized gay marriage than the day before".

Well, I mean, no wonder, right?  But that's exactly why these things need to be released.  People need the opportunity to see how feeble the defense was and to really understand how motivated by religion the campaign against equality was.  Not everyone is as nerdy as me and reads trial transcripts because they find them so compelling — video is the medium of our lives, and well do the religious know that since it is the medium through which they sold their hate.

The vast majority of the money and on-the-ground support for the Prop 8 campaign came from the Mormon church, supplemented by the Catholic church.  This isn't even money from California, and it's certainly money that ought to take away their tax exempt status.  People need to be shown the kind of lies they were telling to get people to vote against marriage equality, the emotional manipulation about children and families, things so blatantly false they might be defended with the disclaimer: "not intended to be a factual statement."

Gay marriage doesn't destroy families, it doesn't destroy children, it really doesn't do much except make some people very happy and give them access to rights that the rest of us take for granted.  The trial provided an overwhelming amount of evidence that refusing marriage rights not only hurt gay people, but also hurt the thousands of children of LGBT parents.  It hurts these children irreparably, immeasurably, forever.  This wasn't in question, gay marriage opponents agreed.

These tapes shouldn't just be released, they should be broadcast on every news channel for weeks to expose just how rotten the argument is against gay marriage.  If you've ever questioned why church-state separation is so important, this is why.  If conservative Christians (and I include the LDS) hadn't funded the gay marriage ban, it wouldn't be in place, and even they couldn't create enough money to make credible witnesses or a real argument against gay marriage.  The monstrous unfairness of the church taking over, infiltrating, and outright buying the political process only to then lie to the public to get their way has got to stop.  Not only is it immoral, it is un-American.

Proponents motion for return of videos http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-338
Vaughn Walker's response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/53041973/CA9Doc-339-Letter-from-Vaughn-R-Walker
Olson and Boies request for unsealing of videos: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-340
San Francisco's feisty response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-341

 

In LGBT News

I'm so late on all of this, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.

1. The stay will not be lifted on performing gay marriages in California.  It's been so long since the argument before the ninth, that one might easily have forgotten that we were a hairsbreadth away from allowing gay marriages in California again, which would have been just as well, as there will be no marriages until the case is decided.  And probably no marriages until it's gone through the full judicial process, which may be years from now.  Justice is by no means swift in this country.

This is not a surprise, though.  I would have been shocked if the courts had decided to let marriages go ahead.  Despite the fact that there is no harm caused by allowing gay marriage, to admit so would be to tip their hand and to call into question their judicial ruling, so the Ninth can't really get away with supporting a lift of the stay.

2. In super awesome OMG yes news!  As you may know, mutli-national gay couples who are married and have their marriages recognized elsewhere, cannot have their marriages recognized in the US thanks to DOMA.  This means that people can be married but deported, very much unlike the way heterosexual married couples are treated.  Deportations have been halted thanks to the questions about the legality of DOMA.

Confirmation that this policy is now in place nationally is cause for celebration. In many ways this is vindication of a two-decade long struggle by thousands of binational couples, advocates and attorneys. But the fight is not over yet. Many couples, after consulting with experienced immigration attorneys, may decide that this is the proper time to file a green card case. However, DOMA is still the final obstacle for attaining a green card; unless it is repealed or struck down, filing any case with immigration is not without risk. – Lavi Soloway