Prop. 8 goes on trial

On Monday, January 11, 2010, America will begin another walk along the road to equality, as US District Court Judge Vaughan Walker will begin hearing testimony in the case of Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, wherein two same-sex couples are suing for their right to marry in the state of California.

The court's decision is not the end of the road, but most likely the kind of beginning that is only seen once in a generation. The outcome of this case, which will almost certainly be appealed to the Federal Appeals Court, and later to the Supreme Court, will mark the first step in holding this country accountable for its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Points worth noting
1) The lawyers who brought the case to trial are David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, who opposed each other in the historic Bush v. Gore trial that decided the 2000 presidential election. Now, they are an unlikely team working together for a common cause.

2) Depending on a decision that must be made soon by a higher court, this may be the first US District Court case ever televised. It has already been decided that it will be provided at some Federal courthouses via closed-circuit television.

3) It's Schwarzenegger in name only. Don't spend any extra hate on old Arnold this week, because he's only listed on the complaint in his official capacity as Governor of our state. He's officially neutral on the issues, as are almost all of the "defendants" in the case. Many defendants in the case actually agree with the plaintiffs, so the court has granted "intervenor" status to lawyers for the folks who gave us Prop. 8.

4) There is much more in the balance here than simply the right to marry. This case could serve to determine once and for all if homosexuals are a protected class of people, or merely sexual deviants. This has ramifications all the way up, including the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy in the armed forces, and most likely every instance of law that currently allows gays to be discriminated against legally.

Bonus Reading Materials

Full text of the complaint. (Very interesting reading)

LA Times early coverage. (Nice breakdown of the players and issues.)

Collected pre-trial documents

The New Yorker's article

Great site for info and live blogging of the trial.

Ted Olson's 'Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

My own two cents

Personally, I wholeheartedly support the cause of gay rights in America. Many of my friends are gay, and for as long as I can remember, my life has been positively affected by gay coworkers, teachers, roommates, and community activists. My best friend's mom is a lesbian. One of my fiancee's oldest friends is in a same-sex marriage.

In the next couple of weeks, we are all going to be subjected to a lot of blustering speeches about both sides of this issue, and a lot of entreaties to universal justice, divine will and other nonsense that misses the point.

Sure, a very good case can be made that this is about protection, or tolerance, or wickedness, or sin, or Godlessness, or equality, or virtually any other ideal a person might possess. But, what's forgotten is that to some of us, it's not even an issue.

When most Americans look back on Loving v. Virginia (a case with the most amazingly appropriate name in Supreme Court history), we simply shake our heads and think "were people ever so stupid?" It's hard to imagine that this country was a place where people had to argue that Black people and White people were sufficiently similar that they should be allowed to marry. It's difficult to accept the idea that there was a time when people had to fight against an ideology that was so asinine.

The reason is that the outcome reached far and wide, and quickly. And, since "miscegenation" became legal in 1967, so many inter-racial couples have married that few people living in this country don't know at least one mixed couple.

For those of us who have lived around gay couples, the gay marriage ban already seems like some horrible relic from a long forgotten era, like doctors using leeches, or cocaine soda pop. It looks and feels like hate for hate's sake, and when we see protesters on the street vehemently supporting this nasty ban, part of us is angry, and part of us is really sad, but some part, I hope the largest part, feels a sort of pity for them.

They have lives that are so small, and so cloistered, that they are afraid of other people getting married. Imagine that for a second. Try to imagine what that must be like.

We all know by now that exposure is the cure for bigotry. When we meet people who are different from us, really meet them, spending time with them and their families, it becomes obvious very quickly that we all have a lot in common, and there isn't much to fear from any group of people in general. We see that the things that once worried us soon become a source of infinite conversation and inquiry. Now, just imagine how secluded a person's life must be, how harshly defended, that in all his years he never got to know a gay person.

It's not scary, really. It's just pathetic. And it's temporary, astonishingly temporary.

regarding what is or isn't a protected class

Quoting: "This case could serve to determine once and for all if homosexuals are a protected class of people . . . "

Actually, that isn't quite true. The potential protected class is sexual orientation, not any PARTICULAR sexual orientation.

Under the law, the term "protected class" doesn't refer to any particular group of people, just a classification such as race, gender, religion, etc.

So if the protected class is religion, that protects all religions equally, not just Muslims, not just Jews, or Catholics, but everybody.

Confusion about this term lets people who wish to deny civil rights to others claim that a law creates a new "specially protected class of people", then they claim this is discriminatory.

But laws against discrimination or bias related crimes apply to and protect all of us, not any particular group. Otherwise, anti-discrimination laws could be attacked as unconstitutional, because the constitution guarantees equal protection under the law.

Thanks for the clarification

It is much appreciated.