Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day eleven summary
January 26th, 2010
Today started with the continued cross-examination of Professor Ken Miller. Attorney David Boies further proved that Miller was ill informed and that his stated opinions did not seem to be consistent with the facts.
Boies provided exit polling that revealed that the third of Californians who attend church weekly voted 84% for Proposition 8 and in all other category of Californians the majority voted “no”. And while Miller had claimed that gay people have power due to union support, the exit polls show that union households supported the proposition. (which, I suppose, means that union households are disproportionately religious)
Boies provided a poll that showed that Americans were much less willing to vote for a presidential candidate that was gay (55%) than they were for a Catholic (95%), an African American (94%), or Hispanic candidate (85%).
He went on to illustrate that Miller had not familiarized himself with workplace discrimination, school bullying, or stereotypes about gays preying on children, or the extent to which such stereotypes impacted voters. (In short, the proponents’ expert witness isn’t very expert at all. But considering what he might have found had he bothered to look, ignorance may have been their best option.)
Miller admitted that some people voted for Proposition 8 based on stereotypes, but he could not say to what extent.
Then it got unpleasant for Miller. He has a new book that came out in 2009 in which he argues that initiatives that disadvantage minorities “can easily tap into an anti-minority sentiment”. He even gave examples including initiatives directed towards restricting the rights of homosexuals. One of Miller’s examples of initiatives that tapped into anti-minority sentiment and disadvantaged homosexuals was Proposition 22, the original ban on gay marriage that was overturned by the California Supreme Court.
Miller argued in his book that courts needed to strictly scrutinize initiatives and not be lenient because their role was to protect minorities from such initiatives. He had written in an article that “Once this majority puts its preference into the state constitution, the legislature and state courts can’t take it out. Only federal courts are the remedy.”.
A year later, Miller “no longer believes” his own book. In fact, he “did not believe all of it” when he wrote it. (Miller has just torpedoed his own career.)
Miller had earlier presented the support of the California Council of Churches as evidence of large religious support for gay rights. In cross-examination he reveals that he really doesn’t know what the CCC is or even if they were a group organized to oppose Proposition 8 (they trace their history back to 1913). His earlier position was that if a church belonged to the CCC then they supported gay marriage.
After all of Miller’s testimony about support from the Democrat Party, he was presented with an article in which he said that Democrats splintered along religious lines. Miller had already written that the issue, the primary determinant was religion: In order for gay people to have marriage rights, “They need to persuade those Christian voters that extending marriage rights to the gay community is consistent with their religious beliefs, not undermining them.” He had written that blacks and Latinos had been taught in church that sexual orientation was a matter of scripture and thus could vote for Barack Obama as a civil rights issue and for Prop 8 as a religious issue without conflict.
Boies got Miller to agree, as a social scientist, that “it is a general principle that it is undesirable for a religious majority to impose its views on a minority”. While Miller was babbling trying to find an out for the religious oppression of gay people, Boies announced that he had no more questions.
Thompson tried to recover in redirect. He had Miller reiterate that the Briggs initiative (to ban gay school teachers) and the LaRouche initiatives (to quarantine AIDS patients) did not pass.
Miller testified that he used to think that initiatives did not well serve democracy but since Massachusetts legalized marriage he changed his views and now sees them as a way for people to express their popular sovereignty. The exception he now sees is marriage. (In short, he found that his prejudices disagreed with his principles, so he made an exception. I can’t see how this will help either his credibility or his argument.)
In the afternoon, the defendants presented their second witness, David Blankenhorn. He is president of the Institute for American Values, a non-profit think tank that focuses on fatherhood, marriage, child rearing, child well being, and family structure.
He testified that to write his book, The Future of Marriage, he sought to learn about the anthropology of marriage across cultures.
In voir dire, Boise noted that none of Blankenhorn’s marriage writing was peer reviewed. Nor has he taught courses about marriage, fatherhood, family structure or anything else. Blankenhorn’s examinations of the results of same-sex marriage are limited to discussions with colleagues and reading articles. His only peer-reviewed work was on cabinet makers and black fathers. Judge Walker indicated that were this a jury trial Blankenhorn might not be qualified to testify as an expert but that he can testify.
Blankenhorn testified that marriage is the socially approved sexual relationship between a man and a woman which establishes the parenthood of the children. Marriage brings about the social, the legal, and the biological consequences of parenthood. “East, West North, South, 1000 years ago, it always does this thing.” As marriage changes, this aspect never does.
This is based on a broad consensus of scholars and anthropologists. For his “broad consensus”, Blankenhorn relies on a number of quite old books, the most recent of which is from 1985.
Blankenhorn read from some who say that marriage is an adult relationship but stated that he disagrees. Earnestly. He testified that he could not find any animus or hatefulness of gay people as the reason that people get married. (I dare say he’s correct. No one marries to spite gay people. And the original definitions were not designed to exclude but rather to allow society to know which man owns which woman and is responsible for her care. But the new definitions as applied by anti-gay amendments are absolutely intended to exclude gay people and to spite them.)
He testified that research shows that the ideal family relationship for a child is a biological mother and father in low-conflict marriage. (Again, he’s likely correct. And a principled argument could be made that these are the only family forms that society should reward with marriage. But it doesn’t. It rewards remarriage of widows and widowers, divorced people with children, the childless, the elderly, and indeed absolutely every other less-than-ideal coupling provided that they are opposite-sex. The question is not whether biological parents are a smidgen better than two mothers (a position that could probably be made), but why two mothers (who are better than, say, a mother and stepfather) are not provided with marriage.)
Blankenhorn testified that changing the rules of an institution results in weakening, what he calls deinstitutionalization. He notes that the deinstitutionalization has been the fault of heterosexuals: out of wedlock childbirth, divorce, assisted reproductive technology, and the very idea of same-sex marriage. He claims that “Scholars are telling us that process of weakening will be accelerated significantly by same sex marriage.” Transferring the institution from a child centered one to an adult-pleasure centered one would erase the institution.
It would become impossible to opine that a child needs a father. It could lead the public to consider polygamy. In short, Blankenhorn believes that allow same-sex couples to marry would remove the core purpose for marriage and leave it essentially meaningless and valueless. An institution that doesn’t define heterosexual couples tied to their biological children would have no purpose and would eventually die off.
Blankenhorn supports domestic partnerships and civil unions. He just wants to protect the privilege of marriage. (This is, in my thinking, the weakest argument. If one truly wants to “think of the children” then any structure that “denies a child their biological mother and father” would be equally disadvantageous. It matters little whether this deprived child’s same-sex parents are civilly unioned or civilly married.)
He co-authored an article supporting civil unions (and implies that Jonathan Rauch agrees with him that they are better – he does not). In reality the article supported a temporary compromise in which the federal government would recognize state marriages as civil unions provided that there were robust religious-conscience exceptions.
He argued that marriage is bigger than just the legal incidences of marriage (a point that our side has made repeatedly). Domestic partnerships are comparable but not the same as marriage. Then he said something perplexing: “It is discriminatory and morally wrong to call two things that are the same by different names.”
Boies then led cross-examination.
Boies showed that Blankenhorn’s institute treats biological and adoptive families the same. Blankenhorn testified that adoptive families are just as good. And he is not aware of any study that shows that children of gays and lesbians have different worse outcomes than straight.
If I understand the liveblogging correctly, Blankenhorn believes that the adoption of same-sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children. And he believes that America would be more just by allowing same-sex marriage. But he thinks it would lead to fewer marriage between heterosexuals.
(Odd, it never occurred to Blankenhorn that he would actually have to tie his opinions back to those who did research. I get the impression that he thought it would be similar to the polite debates in which everyone’s opinion is considered to be valid and that real research was treated as no more valuable than opinions based on “thinking about it for a long time” or writing a book.)
Boies gets Blankenhorn to admit that few (perhaps none) of his listed sources actually discuss either disinstitutionalization or same-sex marriage and that none make the two part linkage: same-sex marriage leads to deinstitutionalization which then leads to fewer heterosexual marriages. (This may be simply an extrapolation on the part of Blankenhorn, and he simply is not qualified to make such an extrapolation. He has not done research and it appears that he cannot back up his positions with the research of others. It’s difficult to understand why Cooper allowed two very unprepared witnesses to take the stand.)
That was it for today and cross-examination will continue tomorrow. The case is scheduled to end around noon, after which the judge will go ponder the evidence before the attorneys make their closing statements some time in February. Then Judge Vaughn Walker will make his decision.