January 12, 2010
By Rick Jacobs
Well, that’s it for day two. The pattern looks pretty clear. Our side is saying that gays and lesbians have been harmed for a really long time, that there has been institutional discrimination, that they are a suspect class (meaning they should be covered by the equal protection clause). Our side is also showing that marriage will be strengthened by permitting loving same-sex couples access it, that society will be more stable with same-sex marriage and that there is no harm done at all by opening marriage to same-sex couples.
The Prop. 8 side wants to show that marriage has always (in the US) been a Christian institution between a man and a woman, that heterosexual marriage is really good for kids and that in fact homosexual marriage will “hurt” kids and will degrade the institution. Ultimately, they are trying to show that it will lead to less stability as people abandon the institution of marriage.
They are having a hard time with that because so far the evidence shows that by seeking access to marriage, groups previously excluded, such as slaves, interracial couples, certain classes of “foreigners” and in some cases women, have actually strengthened the institution by obtaining access.
There’s another theme here which is about tradition. Remember the Fiddler on the Roof song? The Prop. 8 side appeals to their concept of tradition. The only problem is that their idea of tradition either never existed or only existed when women and people of color had fewer rights than white men.
There’s so much more, but you all can probably see more patterns than can I because I have been so close to it. What do you see? What do you think? Share it, will you? One big purpose of this trial is to have a national conversation based on a huge body of evidence. Homosexuality and America are on trial here. The Prop. 8 folks do not want you to see what’s going on and they don’t want a conversation outside of the carefully controlled media buys they that are all based on fear. So start talking, start writing.
Courage Campaign Institute started our Courageous Conversations (check it out here). Sooner than later, we need to stories of the plaintiffs out there. That will start to change hearts even as this trial changes minds.
The hard part is living through this. That Anita Bryant segment, the ads, the analysis of the ads by Prof. Chauncey, it is all upsetting. Last night, Cleve Jones and Lance Black showed me Harvey Milk’s Castro Street. Cleve’s mind is a bit scary: he remembers every name and face and place that he has ever been. He’s a walking history book who can translate and apply that history today’s politics even while he designs the strategy for the future. We all know that Lance is a wildly talented writer, but he’s way smart. He lived MILK for ten years before the movie became MILK.
I had never spent any time in the Castro. The truth is that I was afraid to as I was maturing because in my twenties, when I was not out and hated being gay, I was afraid to come to San Francisco because I did not want people to think I was gay. So there I was yesterday listening to how those two couples had gotten mauled by prejudice and how all they want to do is marry and then that night I was walking through gay history with two of the people I most respect. Cleve knew lots and lots of people still even last night. Some folks came up to Lance to give him a book or ask for a picture. We stopped in Twin Peaks, a bar that had been there since, as Cleve remembered, 1972. Lance and I were talking and at one point we realized that Cleve had been gone for a long time (usually I’m gone and they never notice, but enough of that). The bartender laughed at us as we swiveled our necks looking for him. There was Cleve, twenty feet away at the end of the bar talking to two African American gentlemen of a certain age. They’d been at it for about twenty minutes, recalling who had been alive, who was still alive, who was where and what had moved, what had changed, what had not.
Cleve and people like him made it possible for me to be here today. They lived in that sort of secret society that Professor Chauncey talked about and then they came out and they fought the police and they fought Anita Bryant and then they fought AIDS and then many died and then they watched as guys like me sauntered up without the external scars that they bear, but still wounded inside, still unsure if we’re “okay” after having been told for a lifetime that, as the plaintiffs and Dr. Cott and Dr. Chauncey said, we are “less than.”
This time, in this trial of homosexuality and of America, we have the best conservative legal advocate in the nation on our side along with arguably the best advocacy team in Olson, Boutros, Boies and Stewart, among others. And they are backed up by decades of hard work from Jenny Pizer and so many other brilliant advocates in the LGBT community. This time, though, it’s not the gays stirring it up; it’s the establishment demanding equality for all of America.
I’m sitting under the gray sky outside the gray Burton Courthouse finishing up this post. I’m still all torn up inside and maybe even around my eyes. I have to process what I’m seeing. What we all know is that we are living history. As I keep saying, I want the history for the next generation to be free of burdens of sexuality and stigma. We have that chance thanks to Chad and Bruce and the Foundation and the donors and thanks to everyone who reads this blog, everyone who tells story, everyone who owns their wholeness as an American.
I may not be here for a while, but we’ll cover this. We have to.
Now please, go out there and talk and listen!