Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day five summary
January 16th, 2010
Today began with testimony from Dr. Michael Lamb, Head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University. Michael McGill led the questioning. Dr. Lamb is highly qualified, prolific, and respected in the areas of child development and devolopmental psychology.
In the 1970’s Dr. Lamb began with the assumption that a father-mother household was better. His views changed based on his research. By the 90s this change was accepted in the field.
Articles document conclusively that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are just as likely to be well adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. This is based on a great volume of study of children of different ages and further buttressed by results that affect children of broader range of children.
Studies conducted include both convenience samples and representative samples, longitudinal and cross-section. Over 100 studies have been taken. All mental health organizations agree.
Lamb refuted some of the pseudo-scientific claims of Prop 8 proponents, including the use of the term “gender disorientation pathology” in a Ron Prentice email repeating “21 Reasons why Gender Matters” (Perhaps those listed at NARTH). This term is not used in psychology.
Lamb refutes the canard that gays and lesbians are more likely to be child abusers, nor are their children likelier to be gay (though they are likelier to reject sex-stereotypical occupations).
Lamb dismisses Dr. Joe Nicolosi (ex-gay proponent) and his notions that childen of gay couples are going to be emotionally and socially traumatized. He says that adopted and artificially conceived children are as likely to be well adjusted as those raised by natural parents. He says that the only one in the field of child psychology who holds that view is David Blankenhorn.
In cross-examination, David Thompson for Prop 8 has Lamb admit he’s a “committed liberal”. Thompson tried to get Lamb to agree that science and research only give the results that government wants and that there is a vast liberal conspiracy to make scientific results be what the liberals want them to be. He references the East Anglia climate control scandal. This is an insult to anyone with a brain.
Thompson argued that men are cretins (he referenced Homer Simpson) and women are weak little caretakers. Liveblog synopsis:
Women spend more on children than men. Some occupations are specific to genders. Men are more likely to perpetrate sexual abuse than women. Step fathers more likely to molest children, abuse children than women. Molestation is bad for kids. Evidence that men who are married to women drink and gamble. You are not saying that men and women are completely interchangeable.
(My favorite argument so far:) Men can’t breast feed. Breast feeding clearly has benefits for children. (yup, well that settles it, children whose mothers can’t breast feed them should be left out for the wolves.)
Thompson read an article in which Lamb stated that biological parents were more important than involvement in raising the children; it was written in the 1970s. He quoted Lamb stating that it was disconcerting that fathers’ roles were devalued; Lamb was a grad student. Thompson read from Lamb’s The Role of Fatherhood in Childhood Development, 1976 version.
Lamb: Citations are to 1961, two from 1950s, one from 1965. We’ve had a lot of research since that was written. As you’ve pointed out, there have been subsequent editions of this book, that have updated these citations.
Thompson reminds Lamb that he described David Blankenhorn’s book as “most provocative commentary published in 1995″. Lamb said that Blankenhorn thought his review was negative.
Thompson somewhat desperately tried to get Lamb to agree that having both a male and a female in the house is essential to good childhood development. Lamb didn’t play along.
(At this point we discover that a few witnesses for Prop 8 have been withdrawn because of “fear for their personal safety”. But wasn’t that why there is no video recording? Personal fear? Or is it that those witnesses realized that their peers would find out what they had testified through bloggers and knew that they would be mocked and reviled in their professional fields for selling their soul to the cause of discrimination and injustice. After lunch, Boutrous pointed out to the court that the witnesses who were skurrrred of being recognized dropped out after the SCOTUS said they didn’t have to be televised. He said that in pre-trial he predicted they would drop out because they were afraid of what they would have to say during cross-examination.)
Quite a bit of time was taken establishing that children do better in homes with both parents rather than with a single parent. Much emphasis that step-fathers are more likely to sexually abuse than genetic fathers. Lamb continues to point out that they are comparing heterosexuals to heterosexuals.
I get the impression that Thompson is out of his element. At one point he objects that the US Census is not a random sample. Lamb points out that if a sample includes the entire population, it’s better than a random sample. Thompson tries to argue that studies of gay people are faulty because they only study those who identify as gay; he seems not to notice that if we are talking about marriage, there aren’t going to be many non-LGBT-identifying folk who marry a person of the same sex.
After lunch the judge asked Lamb why adopted children seek out their natural parents. Lamb said it was due to a natural curiosity about where they came from and not due to maladjustment. Walker then asked about priest abuse in the Catholic Church. Lamb clarified that it was predominantly heterosexual and that gay abuse occurs at about the same rate as heterosexual sexual abuse.
During Thompson’s efforts to discredit the rather extensive research on the subject, he looks for anything that was not included to suggest that it throws all of the evidence out the window. His stabs include the financial resources of grandparents, the genetic intelect of the children, the educational achievement of grandparents, etc. He tries to sound incredulous that these studies didn’t include these less obvious factors. What comes out in court, however, is the rather extensive number of factors that actually have been considered.
He cites Walter Shum of Kansas State Universite. Lamb dismisses Shum by saying, “I’ve seen it before. It was published in a journal where one has to pay to have it published, so it’s not really considered part of the literature. But I have seen it in past cases.”
(A non-peer reviewed pay-to-get-published article? Gee, where have we seen that before?)
Thompson is trying to get Lamb to agree that only middle class gay and lesbian families were studied. And that the control groups of straight parents in the studies were not necessarily limited to married biological parents.
I’m wondering at the extent of this effort. I assume that is because when Blankenhorn argues that heterosexuals are better – based on his opinion – then Prop 8 will argue that we can just ignore all research whatsoever and go on Blankenhorn’s opinion. It’s just one opinion against another. While that might work well in a media campaign, I wonder if it’s effective strategy to present to a judge.
Further, it appears that Thompson knows far less about the “gotchas” that he wants to drop on Lamb. He appears to have forgotten the first rule of jury testimony, don’t ask a question to which you do not know the answer. He also confused references to studies as being separate studies and seems not to know what meta-analysis is.
Thompson says, “We’re trying to show that optimal way to raise kids is in heterosexual households.”
(Yes, Mr. Thompson, you are trying to show that. Unfortunately for you, the science isn’t behind you.)
In redirect, McGill has Lamb clarify that the largest comparative studies included census data and thus compared gay couples (married and unmarried) with heterosexual couples (married and unmarried) and that gay children did not fare worse.
McGill then plays deposition tape of Dr. Marks, a Prop 8 witness that withdrew “cuz he’s skurrrrred of the cameras”. It seems Marks made a wise decision. In the tape he contradicted himself and ends up – in this clip – undermining his assertion that biological families are preferable.
McGill had Lamb read a portion of his review of Blankenhorn’s book illustrating how it was not favorable.
Lamb concludes by testifying that the field shares his conclusions because of the consistency of the outcome of hundreds of studies. Outliers which are not replicated don’t change conclusions based on cumulative work.
In one final dig about Lamb being a “liberal” and donating to PBS:
McGill: Did the corporation on public broadcasting affect your opinion in this case?
Lamb: No, it did not.
To end the day, Helen Zia, an Asian-American told the story of her life. She talked about discrimination and fear. She spoke of the humiliation of signing up for the first local domestic partnerships in San Francisco at the window where dog licenses were issued. She talked about how marriage changed her life. Her Chinese grandmother finally had a word to describe Leah, her wife. Her in-laws now saw her brother as extended family. She spoke of cruelty and hostility she experienced in Oakland during the Prop 8 election season.
Chu: How does getting married change things.
Zia: In most immediate sense, it was in how our families related to us. When we first got married. We have a niece, 2 years old, only known us Auntie Helen and Auntie Leah. WHen she saw Leah and me, she gave us a big hug, said, Auntie Leah, now you’re really my auntie. I thought, well, you’ve always known her as your auntie. Somehow it made a difference. It made a difference to our parents. When you say you’re a domestic partner. When people say “who’s this person?” I can’t count the number of times who said “Partner in what business.” We’d say “partners in life.” Often it was bewilderment. What business is life, od yo umean life insurance. It’s a matter of how our families relate to people. For me to show up at every event. People ask who’s she. For her 90-something auntie to say, here’s Leah’s friend. She must be a really good friend, suddently there were able to say, Helen is my daughter in law. My mother is an immigrant from China. She dosent’ get waht partner is. I would be around her, I could hear them say, sometimes in Chinese, sometimes in English, that’s Helen’s friend. Then it changed, she would say, this is my daughter-in-law. Whether they got it or not, you don’t insult someone’s wife, you don’t insult someone’s mother. We’re not partners in life or in some business. It changed things on a huge level. Marriage in how it affected our families. Our families related to each other differently. Marraige is joining of two families. My family and Leah’s family now relate to each otheer differently. My brother lived about 5 minutes away from Leah’s father when he was still alive, in those 15 years, they didn’t make an effort. After we were married, Leah’s father would stop by, drop things off. My brother is quite active in HI, Leah’s brother’s wife, my sister in law. Has a sister who runs in same circles. He will now say she’s my in-law.
And this ended the day. The case will resume Tuesday morning. The plaintiffs expect to end testimony on Wednesday.
It is difficult to predict how long it will take the Prop 8 defendants to present their testimony now that four of their six witnesses have dropped out cuz they’re skurrred of the evil homosexual menace that will hunt them down and piddle in their petunia. All, it might be noted, after the SCOTUS gave in to their demands of no televising and no video at all outside of a live-feed to another room inside the same courthouse.
Somehow I think they really wanted to lose the battle over the cameras. As we saw from Dr. Marks’ video deposition, their witnesses may be far more worried about their own inadequacies and dents in their reputation than they are about marauding bands of drag queens and dykes on bikes chanting, “we’re here, we’re queer, you’re a bigot, get used to it” while they try to order a latte at their local Starbucks.
I suspect that they wanted an excuse to drop their witnesses so they could use this to appeal the trial of fact. But the SCOTUS may have unintentionally called their bluff and left them with only the flimsiest of wacky excuses (“we were skurrred of the evil homosexuals in the overflow room; they might hit us with their laptops). And now they only have two witnesses who are willing to be cross-examined.