Well, thereâ€™s only one story worth talking about in the GLBT news files this week, and I think you know what it is. Yes, itâ€™s time for the annual Equality Texas Merry Merry Martini Mixer, my preferred avenue for supporting the community and making a personal commitment to activism. Iâ€™m not trying to make the rest of you feel badly, but I believe we canâ€™t just sit on the sidelines while others do the heavy lifting for gay civil rights. It may be a small thing, but my participation in the Merry Merry Martini Mixer is my way of carrying some of the load for my brothers and sisters in the movement.
We can all find some way to contribute. Some might join a demonstration, go door to door in an educational campaign, write a check or volunteer at a community center. Thereâ€™s no â€śright wayâ€ť or â€śwrong wayâ€ť to make a difference. Whatever you do, good luck to you. Or â€śbottoms upâ€ť as we â€śmixersâ€ť like to say. The MMMM is coming up on Friday, and my wife and I are in training all this week. Itâ€™s tiring, but itâ€™s been very rewarding at the same time.
Okay Okay. Itâ€™s trial time in San Francisco, and the whole country is talking about the goings on in Vaughn Walkerâ€™s courtroom. Unfortunately, the federal challenge to Prop 8 is not being televised, so I am unable to lounge in bed watching the tube, eating bonbons and drinking Champagne, all the time insisting that Iâ€™m â€śworking.â€ť
On Wednesday (today) the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether or not to allow the live feed that is showing in a handful of federal courtrooms to be expanded to other court facilities around the country. My impression, by the way, is that the delayed You Tube coverage proposed by Judge Walker was not approved by the Ninth Circuit. But whether or not the tape rolls, we still have the Blogosphere to give us that courtside feeling.
So far, in two days, weâ€™ve heard opening arguments as well as testimony from the plaintiff gay couples and two expert academic witnesses for our side.
As you know, the accusing party is first to present a case, the defense follows, and both sides cross-examine each otherâ€™s witnesses. This trial is expected to take two or three weeks, so weâ€™re in for a long haul and I have no intention of digging up third hand reports of what Dr. Whoever said or what Professor Whoseit was wearing. There are live blogs galore streaming the details like valley girls on coke if you want all the dirt.
For the record, analysts on our side say weâ€™re winning hands down, while the other sideâ€™s pundits are equally impressed with their own performance.
But hereâ€™s a fact. The more we debate the issues, legal questions and history, the better our position. The various arguments against marriage equality are nonsensical, and pass muster only when a court can distract us from their many flaws with semantic legerdemain. So we will win this trial, and in the process, create a dense factual and legal record that can only benefit us as the litigation continues through the higher courts.
Wither The Case?
And what of those higher courts? As far as I understand, and I could be totally wrong, Judge Walker will have to decide whether or not to issue an injunction against Prop 8 when the trial is over. If he does so, an appeal would be fast tracked through the Ninth Circuit and possibly to the Supreme Court.
But Iâ€™m guessing Walker would once again sidestep that decision. After all, until the final decision is made by the appellate courts, you donâ€™t want more couples getting married and possibly losing their status if Prop 8 were to survive. I mean, of course, Iâ€™d like them to marry, but thereâ€™s a strong argument in favor of maintaining the status quo until the merits of the case are determined.
Without an injunction to speed up the process, it could be a couple of years before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit would rule on the core issues. Early on in this case, lawyers Olson and Boies gave the public the impression they were in favor of taking the fastest possible route to the High Court. But after six or seven months on the job, I imagine the team is more interested in victory than alacrity.
Most observers think the Ninth Circuit will rule in our favor, but even though that court is considered liberal, it has its share of conservative or moderate judges. You never know which three jurists will end up on an appellate panel, so a Ninth Circuit victory is not automatic. If we were to lose, I imagine weâ€™d ask the full Ninth Circuit to review the case rather than send a loss up to the Supreme Court. But who knows?
If we win, the other side will no doubt ask the nine justices to make the final call. And here lies uncertainty and danger. Most news reports are repeating the conventional wisdom that Prop 8 will wind up before the Supreme Court. But why should it? Marriage equality will be one of the toughest and most historic questions the Roberts Court will face in this decade. Do they really want to start off with an all or nothing confrontation between the unequivocal dictates of the Constitution and the laws of 40-plus states? I donâ€™t think so. I think theyâ€™ll duck Perry and accept Gill, over the objections of Scalia and Thomas, but with the support of Roberts himself.
The Gill case, you recall, is the more limited - and more winnable - federal case that challenges part two of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of married gay couples in Massachusetts. It goes hand in hand with a similar challenge filed against the United States by the state of Massachusetts itself, and it will very possibly result in the demise of our most despicable federal statute.
Of course, anything can happen. Maybe Roberts likes the idea of preserving the votersâ€™ right to outlaw marriage on a state-by-state basis, while agreeing that federal recognition is due those couples living in marriage equality states. Man, I donâ€™t know why Iâ€™m even speculating on the subject in view of my inability to see the future and lack of legal training. On the bright side, Iâ€™ve written half my column!
Hereâ€™s a weird little case tidbit. One of the five people registered as formal defendants in the trial is trying to extricate himself from the proceedings because heâ€™s afraid that he or his family could be targeted by, um, the madding gay men and lesbians on the other side of the issue. William Tam is not only fearful, but he told the court that he doesnâ€™t have time for the enterprise and that he doesnâ€™t want to undergo the irritating courtroom questioning and such.
Oh, and someone slashed his tires. No doubt one of our kooky GLBT marriage activists. Câ€™mon people! Give the guy a break. Or rather, leave him in peace. At any rate, our side asked the court to deny his request since they have already put some work into preparing for his testimony.
And for those of you who canâ€™t get enough, read Ted Olsonâ€™s piece in Newsweek and Margaret Talbotâ€™s article in The New Yorker.
Battle of Trenton Will Go On
It seems so long ago, but it was only last Thursday that New Jerseyâ€™s senate crushed our marriage bill by a vote of 652 to 7. I forget the exact numbers (20-14, it seems). Basically, as the pundits said later, the Democrats lost their will when they lost the governorâ€™s race, and with Christieâ€™s swearing in a few days away, the legislative prospects for marriage equality in the Garden State are nonexistent.
However, the good news is that Lambda Legal has announced plans to go back to court and force the New Jersey justices to enforce their marriage opinion from 2006. Indeed, our legal eagles appear to have a slam dunk case. In the Lewis ruling, the state supreme court said that gay couples must be treated equally, but the justices then managed to undermine their own rhetoric by allowing the legislature to figure out just how to provide these mandated equal rights. Civil unions were the result.
The legislature also ordered a commission to study the impact of civil unions and surprise, surprise, two years and many hearings later, the commission issued a report detailing the many inequalities that nothing but marriage rights can cure. That report, by the way, was expected to inspire lawmakers to rectify the situation by passing a marriage bill, and you can see how well that worked.
Now, says Lambda, itâ€™s time to go back to the justices and insist on a fix. After all, theyâ€™ve already ordered equality, and four years have gone by in which gays have had to muddle through with a second-rate status that falls short. We were disappointed when New Jersey didnâ€™t impose marriage rights to begin with in the Lewis case. But at least their opinion was such that we can insist on them now.
Whatâ€™s Exactly in the Problem?
Now hereâ€™s a strange little item. You remember that lesbian Annise Parker won the Houston mayorâ€™s race last month, right? Well, Barack Obama called her up to congratulate her, but she missed his call because she was on CNN at the time and no one had called in advance to set up a specific time for a Presidential chit chat. Anyway, Obama left her a nice voicemail message, which is now on You Tube.
According to Michelangelo Signorile, Parker told him that someone from the White House phoned to complain about the exposure. When the â€ścurtâ€ť aide questioned her, Parker replied that she had no idea how the message got on You Tube, adding that she herself would have no idea how to upload such a thing.
â€śWhen the President leaves a private communication, it should stay private,â€ť said the officious sounding individual. â€śThen he shouldnâ€™t have left it on my voicemail,â€ť Parker told him.
So, one wonders, was the aide just a prig acting on his own perceived authority? Or is there some reason the White House is particularly embarrassed at having left a supportive message on the phone of a lesbian politician? Are they that touchy about giving the country the impression that the administration is gay friendly?
Now, with all the trial hoopla I forgot to mention last week that the Portuguese legislature approved same-sex marriage and the Iberian Peninsula thus rises on our list of top destinations.
Speaking of top destinations, did you happen to read the New York Times article on 31 places to visit in 2010? Honestly, I love the New York Times, but they can be so pretentious, nâ€™est-ce pas? Is Koh Kood â€śthe next â€śKoh Samuiâ€ť? Is Cesme â€śthe next Bodrumâ€ť? They seriously posed these absurdly exotic questions.
Iâ€™m sorry, but the whole feature made me feel inadequate and unworldly. Or it would have if I hadnâ€™t spent that glorious fortnight at the Ashtanga yoga surf camp in Mysore over the holidays. As for GLBT travel, hereâ€™s another verbatim quote:
â€śSan Francisco, Amsterdam and Provincetown? Been there. Mykonos and Ibiza? Done that. Looking for the next gay destination? How about the Himalayan country of Nepal? Yes, Nepal.â€ť
Turns out Nepal has some cutting edge gay rights laws, but really. Ever try to find a gay bar on Annapurna? I mean, a nice one, with a happy hour buffet.
That said, I am off to pursue my New Yearâ€™s resolution, which is to write a gay news limerick every weekday. This is what I came up with on Mondayâ€ť
Said the activists backing Prop 8,
â€śWhy should lawyers allow you
We reject your devotion,
On simple emotion.
Leave your reasoned complaints
at the gate.
Said the duo of David and Ted:
â€śThe High Court has already said
That deadbeats and inmates,
And fat mates and thin mates,
And even some kin mates can wed.
This was Tuesdayâ€™s effort:
If restrictions on marriage should stop
Childrensâ€™ literature standards
Gay kings running wild,
And the Fairy Queen blowing her top.