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Posts for January, 2010

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day four summary

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2010

Again, thanks to liveblogging by Courage Campaign and FireDogLake

The day starts with testimony from Edwin A. Egan, Chief Economist for San Francisco. His job includes determining the economic impact of legislation.

His argument: marriage equality means more married couples. Those who marry tend to accumulate wealth, spend more, increase property values, etc. Married individuals also engage in healthier behavior which leads to greater productivity and a positive economic influence.

Egan also discussed how companies treat marriages differently from domestic partnerships when it comes to heath care.

(This direction be an argument unique to San Francisco in which, due to demographics, economic influences on the gay population can have a significant impact on the city’s economy as a whole. It may be difficult for Prop 8 to argue that such an impact is immaterial to a city like SF)

Egan discussed direct economic benefits to the city from legal marriages (event costs, hotel, restaurant). He noted that if DOMA were lifted, income taxes per couple would be reduced on average by $440, some of would be spent in the city thus increasing sales taxes and improving the economy.

In cross-examination, Peter Patterson challenged some of Egan’s calculations.

First he tries to present the idea that all of those who wish to marry already did so in the narrow window. This argument is strangely and poorly crafted by arguing that because there were few appointments for marriages in November (when marriage was not legal) then there was no demand.

Patterson made points by noting that Egan bases his three year projection on the rate of marriages during last summer, not allowing a drop off for a lessening of “pent-up demand”. Further, he argues that Egan’s estimates assume that over 100% of current couples would marry within two years (he does not allow for new couples or couple migration).

Egan may have redeemed himself by showing that his assumptions about marriage expenditures and guests are based on conservative estimates (spend 25% of what straight marriage spend and only 10% of guests from out of town).

Patterson argues that while same-sex marriages may increase, opposite-sex marriages may decrease. (This may actually be true for the short window in a city like SF. There may have been limited marriage facilities and resources and some straight folk may have waited until after the marriage window. Over time, the laws of supply and demand would provide for adequate marriage resources)

In redirect, Egan clarifies that despite dispute over the numerical accuracy of his calculation, marriage would increase health coverage and that, coupled with marriage expenditures, would financially benefit the city.

In the afternoon, Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, testified about the stigma and prejudice gay and lesbians individuals face in society. Christopher Dusseault is plaintiff’s counsel for this section.

Meyer argues that societal stigma assigns gay people the roll of not desiring intimate relationships and being incapable of them. Society defines intimate relationships to mean marriage, husband, wife, family and community to the exclusion of gay people. (Think The Boys in the Band)

As illustration, Dusseault has Meyer read from Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask:

What about all the homosexuals who live together happily for years?

What about them? They are mighty rare birds among the homosexual flock. Moreover, the “happy” part remains to be seen. The bitterest argument between husband and wife is a passionate love sonnet by comparison with a dialogue between a butch and his queen. Live together? Yes. Happily? Hardly.

Meyer argues that domestic partnerships do not have the same social meaning as marriages and thus Proposition 8 imposes structural stigma. He talks about social stressors, both event (a bad thing happens) and non-event (something expected and looked forward to does not happen). Because all children expect to marry some day, denying marriage to gays is a non-event stressor. Meyer identified the processes that create minority stressors as prejudice events, expectations of rejection and discrimination, concealing–not being out, and internalized homophobia.

Some stressors may have little real impact, such as filling out a form, but “the form evokes social disapproval and rejection and memories of events, including large events that have happened in the past.” So travel, banking, vehicle registration, many simple things have minority stressors with great impact.

And actual abuse need not occur for the person to experience stressors.

Many times people avoid situations, or swallow those situations of slurs and just move on because they don’t want to get into a fight, but the anticipation causes stress.

All of the additional sexual minority stressors lead to increased risk and disease.

Dusseault: Do you have a view if mental health outcomes for gay and lesbian in CA would improve if Prop. 8 were not law?

Meyer: Yes. Consistent with my work and findings that show that when people are exposed to more stress than less stress they are more likely to get sick, consistent with a law that says to gay people you are not welcome here, your relationships are not valued vs. the opposite has significant power. Clearly it’s not the only thing that determines prejudice and discrimination, but it’s a major factor.

Al Wilson cross-examined Meyer for Prop 8. Wilson tried to identify disagreement between studies and to identify exceptions between theory expectation and results.

In particular, he focused on old studies (this does seem to be a consistent but inexplicable tactic of the Prop 8 side in this trial)

Wilson: Well, were your studies inconsistent with older studies?

Meyer: No. I would say the older studies were inconsistent with my new findings.

Wilson tried very hard to get Meyer to discount his own findings. He tried to dismiss the sample size but Meyer used meta analysis. He tried to argue that population definition is impossible, but Meyer pointed out that all populations are difficult to define

You’re trying to suggest it’s some big problem. It’s not. The population is elusive in every study. This is the first step of trying to study. If I wanted to study men, I’d have to define the cohort, age, location, etc. What is a Latino? Do you include Mexicans or Puerto Ricans? The first step is to define the general population and then the sampling population.

(Meyer seems to be quite good)

Wilson: Could you ask someone if they were African American ever or were last year?

Meyer: Yes. That does vary. There are people who move into the US as Caribbean, their parents do not describe themselves as black, but after their kids socialize do say they are African American. Identities change and are responsive to the social context, but how people refer to themselves might change.

Meyer: well attraction is very fluid. Woman might say another woman is attractive, but that doesn’t make her a lesbian. for example, if you want to measure race by skin tone, you’ll have a different result than by identity. That’s why I don’t use attraction, but sometimes use identity. when you’re measuring HIV risk, you need to ask about behavior to assess exposure.

(This is an interesting response. If racial definitions were based solely on skin tones, I’ve met quite a few Latinos and even some African Americans who have fairer skin than I do. I once had one fellow lecturing me about discrimination against ‘brown people’ until I held my arm up against his. Yet my ethnic heritage and overall appearance tends to lead me to identify as “Caucasian” while theirs leads to minority ethnic identities. And discrimination and its inherent stressors are not based on either skin hues or internal attractions, they are based on internal and external identities.)

Wilson spent quite a lot of time in discussing why some racial minorities do not experience as poor mental health as might be expected within the models (the answer is because of being raised and nurtured in and supported by racial minority communities). He seemed to be dancing around the idea that gays are mentally deficient.

Wilson tried to make a peculiar (and specious) argument that if domestic partnerships stigmatize, then why would pro-gay groups have ever supported them? (Duh, because they stigmatize less than having nothing, never, ever)

In redirect, Dusseault had Meyer clarify the distinctions between racial stressors and sexual minority stressors (communities, as noted above). He also cleared up the distinction that domestic partnerships stigmatize, though not to the same extent as no recognition.

Yes, what it means that you can’t have either, the message is even more severe. If a state doesn’t offer marriage, it’s great stigma, but if a state offers domestic partnerships it’s almost like saying go to the back of the bus.

Over all, Meyer’s testimony (as liveblogged) seemed strong.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger to continue to be taped

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2010

At trial today it came out that the supporters of Proposition 8 had appealed to have the taping of the trial terminated. They do not want any record of their argument to be retained beyond the bare minimum.

The judge countered that he needed the taping for his purposes and that it would not be televised. Chuck Cooper seemed content with that.

This is good news. As long as a tape is recorded, there is always a hope that some future legal argument can make this recording available to the world. If not now, then this evidence will undoubtedly be useful for social historians looking back upon this time of legal discrimination.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day three synopsis

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2010

Again much appreciation to Courage Campaign for their liveblogging (along with others in the media). As the US Supreme Court has decided that, for now anyway, the proceedings will take place out of the sight of the public, their contribution to creating an informed public is of immense value.

The Defense’s cross-examination of History Professor George Chauncey continued. Prop 8′s David Thompson sought to get Chauncey to agree that gay people are not really subject to discrimination. This is an attempt to battle Olson/Boies’ goal of establishing sexual orientation as a subject suspect class and thus more highly protected from discrimination.

(Because race is a subject suspect class, the legal assumption is that any discrimination against them is probably unconstitutional. Left-handedness, not currently an oppressed minority subject to regular and insidious discrimination, is not a suspect class and therefore they need to prove that any specific discrimination against them is unconstitutional).

Thompson also sought to get Chauncey to agree that not everyone who opposes marriage (e.g. our “fierce advocate”) does so out of bigotry. He attempted (unsuccessfully) to get Chauncey to agree that a portion of the gay community opposed marriage and therefore supported Proposition 8. Chauncey responded, “The right to marry evolved and became a more widespread and deeply held goal of the gay and lesbian community.”

In redirect Terri Stewart had Chauncey draw parallels between the growing desire in the gay community for marriage to that of the black community who did not seek desegregation when they were simply seeking basic existence.

She had him illustrate that while some faiths were supportive there was strong religious animosity to gay people. Chauncey read from statements from the Vatican and the Southern Baptist Convention. Their point is that sincere religious objection to gay equality can be based in stereotypes and bigotry, just as were sincere religious objections to racial equality.

And then we find out exactly why Hak-Shing William “Bill” Tam sought to be removed from the case. Stewart played a tape of their deposition of Mr. Tam. It seems that Mr. Tam was invited to be an integral part of the campaign focusing on outreach to Asians. He raised substantial amounts of money and orchestrated rallies. He wrote to Asian language newspapers and produced flyers.

One flyer claimed that the San Francisco city government was under the control of homosexuals who wanted to legalize sex with children. Tam feared not only same-sex marriage, but children would learn about gay people and then become gay themselves. Tam seemed to believe that Proposition 8 would stop gay couples from being able to adopt.

Next to testify was Dr. Letishia Peplak, a social psychologist from UCLA with extensive credentials on same-sex relationships. She is an expert on four issues: (a) marriage brings important benefits, (b) relationships between same-sex and heterosexual couples are similar, (c) gay couples who can marry have the same benefits, (d) gay marriage will not harm heterosexual marriage.

Peplak testified that same-sex relationships are very similar to opposite-sex relationships in terms of stability, durability, process, and level of love.

She said that while there is no evidence, it’s been suggested that homosexual relationships are shorter. She also testified that heterosexual co-habitation relationships are shorter than married relationships. She reported a study that married same-sex couples in Massachusetts reported being more committed and to having more benefits.

Nicole Moss questioned Peplak in cross-examination. Moss argued that a 25 year old article shows that gay men are less monogamous than heterosexual married men. Peplak points out that is an “oldie” from a time when gay relationships were secretive. Moss continues with outdated studies of non-representative sample groups.

Peplak has said that she is not an expert on relationships in foreign nations, but Moss presented statistics on marriage in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium 5% of gay couples marry compared to 42% of heterosexual couples. In the Netherlands, 8% of gay couples and 43% if straight couples marry. (I hope that the plaintiffs have statisticians that can speak to the meaning of these numbers and whether they accurately explain current marriages as opposed to cumulative marriages).

Peplak notes the discrepancy with the Massachusetts numbers and speculates that American gay couples may be more pro-family.

In redirect, Peplak notes that studies about lack of monogamy were from a time when there were neither marriage nor domestic partnerships.

Overall, I’m not getting the impression that Peplak was a stellar witness.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day two synopsis

Timothy Kincaid

January 12th, 2010

Today’s testimony consisted of two witnesses (thanks again to Courage Campaign):

Professor Nancy Cott, author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, continued her testimony about the meaning of marriage. She explained how marriage evolved from the government directing gender roles as we moved from an agrarian society.

Cross-witness sought to get Cott to own the statements of other marriage supporters so as to get her defending ideas other than her own but she wasn’t having it. Opposing counsel tried to get her to make predictions, she didn’t.

Then opposing counsel sought to show that marriage was actually Christian doctrine filtered through marriage law. (I can think of a few reasons why he really wouldn’t want to go there, one being that Olson/Boies can put the leaders of several denominations on the stand to talk about Christian doctrine).

In redirect, Cott explains that same-sex marriage was not likely to lead to polygamy because the central theme to marriage is consent and the central theme to polygamy is despotism. (Interestingly, if “children” is the sole purpose of marriage, then polygamy could be a next step – or, rather, a step back to tradition).

In the afternoon, Terri Stewart questioned Dr. George Chauncey, an expert in LGBT studies. Dr. Chauncey gave a lengthy discussion about discrimination and oppression of gay people in America.

Dr. Chauncey showed how the themes of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaigns in the 70′s were successfully carried into the 80′s and 90′s and are the central themes of Proposition 8. He sees them as part of a continuum.

Stewart: Do you believe Prop. 8 ads perpetuate the stereotypes of the history you describe?

Chauncey: I think they do, but they are more polite than the Anita Bryant ads. Society has changed such that what you can say in polite society is different, but most striking is the image of the little girl who comes in to tell her mom that she can marry a princess. There’s a strong echo of this idea that simple exposure to gay people will lead a generation of young people to become gay.

Cross examination tries to paint Chauncey as “an advocate”. They tried that with Cott. I’m not sure what’s going on there as I think it’s clear that all witnesses on all sides are probably going to be advocates for their position. Certainly Blankenhorn is.

Prop 8 supporters fight to keep cameras out of the courtroom

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2010

Judge Vaughn Walker has decided that the Olson-Boies case to find Proposition 8 in violation of the US Constitution will be recorded and available on YouTube. Those defending the proposition and seeking to keep California from legally recognizing same-sex marriages are desperate that this not happen.

Their public argument is that video coverage would turn the case into a “media circus” and that they would be targets of retribution. In a fiery denunciation of the judge’s decision, National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher raged:

On Oct. 22, the Heritage Foundation released a report titled “The Price of Prop. 8,” which concluded that “supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry.”

To deliberately and needlessly expose these people to a new wave of publicity and attacks by televising the trial is outrageous.

And indeed one of the five official sponsors of Proposition 8 (whom I’ve never heard of) has requested to be removed from the case.

On Friday, Tam told U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that he fears for his and his family’s safety. In his court filing, Tam’s lawyers say the trial will bring him unwanted publicity and expose him to retribution from gay marriage supporters.

Tam also says the case has been more time-consuming and more intrusive into his personal life than expected.

But what Gallagher and Tam and the other supporters of Proposition 8 fail to mention is that they volunteered for this case. In fact, when Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown expressed no interest in defending the initiative, Tam petitioned the court requesting that he be allowed to do so.

And their concern that they be identified or targeted seems disingenuous. The proceedings are not going to occur in a secluded and private setting where the witnesses will be kept a secret. Every witness will be known and every testimony blogged about.

Tam certainly got more media attention from dropping out of the case than he would have if he’d just gone through with it.

And yet they are frantic that there be no video. The supporters of Prop 8 appealed the judge’s decision, but yesterday they were denied (SJ Merc)

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a bid by Proposition 8 supporters to block the broadcast of the upcoming trial involving a challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban, refusing to stop a plan to post the proceedings on YouTube.

In a one-paragraph order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Proposition 8 campaign had not presented reason for “intervention by this court” in the broadcast issue.

But this wasn’t the end of their effort. They have now made an emergency application to the Supreme Court asking Justice Kennedy to block camera coverage. The Olson-Boies team has until noon on Sunday to respond (the case starts on Monday).

I do not believe Gallagher and the Prop 8 supporters’ public reasons for wishing to keep the trial from being recorded. I think that their true motivation is better understood from another argument they made. (Law.com)

Lawyers representing the Yes on 8 campaign objected to any broadcast beyond an overflow room in the San Francisco federal building, arguing that witnesses would be intimidated, or change their testimony. [emphasis added]

Change their testimony?

If their witnesses are telling the truth, wouldn’t their testimony be the same in either case?

It seems not. And here is why.

There is a record made of every word said at every trial. But this record generally is not readily accessible to the public. Words said, arguments made, all are lost to dusty volumes and forgotten.

Further, few people ever hear or read what any individual witness has to say. In a high profile trial, reporters will provide the gist of a testimony or paraphrase but the public doesn’t really hear or see

But a video recording of testimony makes their words accessible and permanent. There will be transcripts posted across the internet and for the rest of our lives there will be ready and immediate access to video of each witness making statements in support of banning gay Californians from marrying.

And clearly some of their witnesses are reluctant to testify publicly. They want to say words that the public will never hear and for which they will never be held accountable.

What is it that they don’t want the public to know? What are they reluctant to say in front of the voters who they claim to defend?

“Those who want to ban gay marriage spent millions of dollars to reach the public with misleading ads, rallies and news conferences during the campaign to pass Prop. 8. We are curious why they now fear the publicity they once craved,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Apparently transparency is their enemy, but the people deserve to know exactly what it is they have to hide.”

I suspect that regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, this case is a winner for us. This lawsuit will expose the intents, methods, and agenda of those who oppose equality. And video of their testimony will be, I believe, a very valuable tool to achieving equality.

And voter initiative battles will never be the same.

Gallagher and crew aren’t afraid that they will be targeted for hateful email or a vengeful grocery clerk squishing their tomatoes. They aren’t worried that their witness will have someone call them a bigot.

I think that what they truly fear is that what they have to say in court will look ugly and obscene when played on the news or in commercials during the next “protect marriage” battle.

Olson/Boies Prop 8 trial to be recorded and available

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2010

On January 11, Ted Olson and David Boies will begin their case against Proposition 8, arguing that it runs contrary to the US Constitution. In a strange turn of events, the case will be recorded but not made available for live media coverage. (SJ Merc)

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker approved court-operated cameras in his courtroom for delayed release on YouTube, but rejected a bid by media organizations to televise the proceedings themselves for live broadcast.

Walker, by approving some broadcast of the Proposition 8 trial, became the first federal judge in the West to make use of an experimental program put in place recently by the 9th Circuit Judicial Council, which sets policy for federal courts in nine states, including California.

Supporters of Proposition 8 had argued against any public presentation of the trial, saying that their witnesses were reluctant to testify if their testimony was made available to public scrutiny.

They used one of the anti-gay community’s favorite arguments: fear of retaliation. Personally, I believe that their objection is based in fear of exposure. I suspect that the purposes and beliefs of the funders, organizers, and administrators of Proposition 8 are not aligned with the public, not even the majority of those who voted for the proposition.

9th Circuit to Olson/Boies: No access to Prop 8 internal docs

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2009

On the 4th, we reported that a three judge panel had blocked the turn-over of insider communication of the Proposition 8 supporters to Ted Olson and David Boies. Olson/Boies are suing to have Prop 8 declared in violation of the Federal Constitution and are using as part of their argument the fact that Prop 8 is primarily based in anti-gay animus.

But they will have to do so without access to documents that could prove that the campaign’s strategy consisted of inflaming anti-gay bigotry. (SFGate)

In a unanimous ruling Friday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals tossed out the order that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued in October against backers of Prop. 8, which state voters approved in November 2008.

Walker had said lawyers for two same-sex couples and a gay-rights group were entitled to see internal memos and e-mails between Yes on 8 strategists to look for evidence that the campaign had exploited prejudice against gays and lesbians.

The trial starts January 11th.

No Prop 8 insider documents for Olson/Boies

Timothy Kincaid

December 4th, 2009

Part of the Ted Olson/David Boies case against Proposition 8 is based on the argument that the campaign and its voters denied rights to gay couples out of animus. And to prove animus, they subpoenaed the internal communication of the pro-8 campaign.

Although the presiding judge agreed that such communication should be turned over to Olson/Boies, an appeal to the 9th Circuit has suspended that decision until they can hear it. (SF Chronicle)

The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco suspended the order that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued in October against backers of Prop. 8, which state voters approved in November 2008.

Prop. 8 sponsors argued that their discussions were constitutionally protected and that orders such as Walker’s would discourage candid communications in political campaigns.

The three-judge appeals court panel said the sponsors “have made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed” in their arguments. The court, which held a hearing on Walker’s order on Tuesday, said it would issue a ruling soon.

This always seemed a bit of a long-shot to me anyway.

Procreative Activity

Timothy Kincaid

October 27th, 2009

One of the chief arguments against same-sex marriage (especially that of Catholics) is that the purpose of marriage is to ensure that procreative activities occur within stable families best able to raise the resulting children. And when challenged about the elderly or the barren, the argument is that while some specific married persons cannot procreate, their activities are procreative in nature.

So it is with interest that we observe an amusing anecdote that has emerged from the Olson/Boies challenge to Proposition 8. (NYTimes)

The government should be allowed to favor opposite-sex marriages, Mr. Cooper said, in order “to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable, enduring unions.”

Judge Walker appeared puzzled. “The last marriage that I performed,” the judge said, “involved a groom who was 95, and the bride was 83. I did not demand that they prove that they intended to engage in procreative activity. Now, was I missing something?”

Mr. Cooper said no.

As Judge Walker is not willing to buy into religious presumptions, Mr. Cooper may find it difficult to articulate in this case just exactly why the voters can have excluded a subset of the populace from enjoying the rights afforded to other citizens for reasons other than animus. And if he is unable to do so, that may bode well for this lawsuit.

Olson/Boies Lawsuit Survives First Hurdle

Timothy Kincaid

October 14th, 2009

There was a hearing today regarding whether the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8 brought by Ted Olson and David Boies should be thrown out in summary judgment. (SF Chron)

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, in a ruling from the bench in San Francisco, said a trial was needed to resolve crucial issues, including whether gays and lesbians are persecuted minorities entitled to judicial protection from discriminatory laws. He has scheduled the trial for January.

And in a clue to Judge Walker’s thinking,

But Walker said the Supreme Court, in striking down laws against interracial marriage and by allowing prisoners to marry, had defined the right to wed as fundamental without limiting it to certain groups.

Olson / Boies Prop 8 Trial Date Set

Timothy Kincaid

August 19th, 2009

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker has set the date for the start of the trial over whether Proposition 8 violates the US Constitution: January 11, 2010. He also ruled on whether other parties could insert themselves into the case in order to protect their own interests. (SJ Merc)

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker also during Wednesday’s 90-minute hearing denied the motions of a coalition of three gay-rights groups, as well as of the conservative Campaign for California Families, to intervene as parties to the case. Neither proved an interest not already adequately represented by the case’s plaintiffs — same-sex couples wishing to marry — or the proponents of Proposition 8, he ruled.

But Walker did grant a motion to intervene from the City and County of San Francisco, which he said is asserting governmental interests — lost tourism dollars, and the cost of providing social services to those against whom Proposition 8 discriminates — that the plaintiffs don’t represent.

This leaves Olson and Boies free to craft the discrimination based on animus argument that they feel is most convincing. But it also leaves the defendants free from CCF’s nutcase Randy Thomasson from getting up and proving Olson and Boies’ argument.

It appears that all of the parties are committed to fast-tracking the case, though it will be quite some time before it can be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The January trial is likely to be the first step in a long process before the Proposition 8 challenge can reach the Supreme Court. Even after Walker decides the case, it is certain to be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals some time next year, and that court could take months or longer to rule before the challenge can reach the high court.

Those concerned that the time is not right for this case to be tried before the SCOTUS may wish to consider how the referendum movement to overturn Proposition 8 could impact the case. It appears that this case could reach the Supreme Court between 2010 and 2012. Those who fear a loss at the top of the judicial system may find it beneficial to try and derail the case by reversing Proposition 8 before the case can be heard.

Why Ted Olson Supports Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2009
Theodore B. Olson (Justin Maxon/The New York Times)

Theodore B. Olson (Justin Maxon/The New York Times)

The New York Times has an in-depth profile of Ted Olsen, the conservative half of the Conservative/Liberal doppelganger legal team challenging California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. When Ted Olson announced that he was joining the effort to overturn the ban in federal court, it came as an unimaginably shock to those who knew his work. After all, this is lawyer who had worked to dismantle affirmative action and worked in George W. Bush’s administration where he argued for the expansion of the president’s wartime powers to combat terrorism. This new crusade left his compatriots baffled:

“For conservatives who don’t like what I’m doing, it’s, ‘If he just had someone in his family we’d forgive him,’ ” Mr. Olson said. “For liberals it’s such a freakish thing that it’s, ‘He must have someone in his family, otherwise a conservative couldn’t possibly have these views.’ It’s frustrating that people won’t take it on face value.”

But Olson sees his position as perfectly logical and consistent with his anti-affirmative action positions: He believes that California’s Prop 8 represents governmental-mandated discrimination. And he intends to use Justice Antonin Scalia’s blistering dissent in Lawrence v. Texas as an argument for overturning the ban. Scalia acknowledged in his dissent that the majority in Lawrence had indeed opened the door to same-sex marriage. Already, the Justice Department, in a separate case, cited Scalia’s dissent in declaring that the Defense of Marriage Act has nothing to do with promoting procreation. That argument will certainly be an important component of this case as well. In a twist of delicious irony, his angry dissent may turn out the be a huge gift to the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, the parties in Perry v. Schwarzenegger will appear before Judge Vaughn Walker in U.S. District Court in San Francisco today to discuss who will be arguing the case. One issue is whether the ACLU, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the City of San Francisco, or the Campaign for California Families will be allowed to intervene and become parties to the lawsuit. The first three groups sought to intervene despite earlier opposing the lawsuit. Olson’s legal team opposes the move, citing the LGBT coalition’s earlier opposition to the lawsuit. Chris Geidner has a good rundown on today’s hearing.

Olson is a veteran of fifty-five Supreme court cases, having won forty-four of them in his career.

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