Powerful Prop 8 Testimony

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

For two weeks in January the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 was argued before a federal court. Below is a compilation of key quotes from witnesses called to testify on behalf of the plaintiffs. Judge Vaughn Walker announced that the trial’s closing arguments will occur sometime in March, so be sure to check back to find out if the amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state of California is declared unconstitutional.

In order to make the Prop 8 trial accessible to the public, Los Angeles actors John Ireland and John Ainsworth created video re-enactments of the day-to-day court proceedings based on the actual trial transcripts. Watch the Prop 8 trial on YouTube!

Michael Lamb (NOW member), a Cambridge professor testifying on gay and lesbian parenting:

“… we have a substantial body of evidence documenting that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents. And I’m going to offer the opinion that for a significant number of these children, their adjustment would be promoted were their parents able to get married.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders, San Diego (formerly pro-civil union, became marriage equality supporter):

“…if government tolerates discrimination against anyone for any reason, it becomes an excuse for the public to do exactly the same thing.”

Nancy Cott, Harvard Historian:

” …George Washington, who is often called the father of our country, was sterile, and was known to be sterile because he was in a second marriage to a woman who had had children. And after George Washington and she married, they had no children…this is just a rather striking example of the extent to which procreative ability has never been a qualification for marriage.”

Gary Segura, a Stanford University professor of American politics:

“…when we consider the U.S. political system, gays and lesbians do not possess a meaningful degree of political power. They are not able to protect their basic interests and effectuate their interests into law and to secure those.” “…religion is the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress…”

Letitia Peplau, an expert on couple relationships:

“So I want to emphasize that a lot of different methods have been used to assess quality. And regardless of how it’s measured, the consistent finding, time and again, has been that, on average, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples are indistinguishable.”

Ilan Meyer, Columbia professor:

“Proposition 8, by definition, blocks the marriage institution for gay men and lesbians. This is basically what it says. So, in that sense, it certainly will be responsible for gay men and lesbian not marrying, and having to explain why I have not married. And by explaining why I have not married, you also have to explain, I’m really not seen as equal. I’m – my status is — is not respected by my state or by my country, by my fellow citizens. So it’s — in the very basic definition of structural stigma, it is a block on the way to achieving desirable goals in life.”

Helen Zia, writer who married in San Francisco before Prop 8:

“Getting married has made changes in so many multitude of ways, tangible and intangible, in our lives, that we are even discovering new ways every day. But, in the most immediate sense, it was in how our families related to us. …It made a difference to our parents, to how our parents related to us. It made a difference to how we related to people. … They never said, ‘Oh, Helen is Lia’s partner.’ And suddenly they were able to say, ‘Helen is my daughter-in-law.'”

Dr. M.V. Lee Badgett, University of Massachusetts economics professor:

“Letting same-sex couples marry would not have any adverse effect on the institution of marriage or on different-sex couples. . . . same-sex couples are very similar to [different]-sex couples in most economic and demographic respects, related to marriage in particular . . . [and] Proposition 8 has imposed some economic losses on the State of California and on counties and municipalities.”

Plaintiff Kristin Matthews Perry:

Question:“Do you think it would matter in your neighborhood in your community that you would be able to say that you and Sandy were married? Would it cause people to treat you differently?”

Answer: “I think it would be an enormous relief to our friends who are married. Our straight heterosexual friends that are married almost view us in a way that — I know they love us, but I think they feel sorry for us and I can’t stand it. And I can think of a time recently when I went with Sandy happily to a football game at the high school where two of our kids go and we went up the bleachers and we were greeted with these smiling faces of other parents sitting there waiting for the game to start. And I was so acutely aware that I thought, they are all married and I’m not.”

Professor Chauncey, Yale Professor:

Question: “Have you written about the parallels between from the religious debates over segregation and the religious debates over same-sex marriage? And if so, could you describe those parallels?”

Answer: “Obviously, people of strong religious principle have supported Prop 8, organized Prop 8 to protect their vision of marriage, their understanding of what marriage should be. Often their feelings are driven by deeply-held religious beliefs.

We — we tend to think of all the argument on the marriage debate as being on that side of the marriage debate and all the argument on the debate over civil rights in the1940’s, 50’s and 60’s as being on the other side because of the prominence of Reverend Martin Luther King and the black churches and the civil rights campaign.

But what’s, I guess, striking to me is that – and many other historians have commented on this, written about this, is that, in fact, during the civil rights era, very many southern white Christians believed very deeply and sincerely that segregation was part of God’s will for humankind.

Reverend Jerry Falwell himself preached a sermon in 1958 criticizing the Supreme Court’s Brown v Board of Education decision as going against God’s will and warning, actually, that it could lead to interracial marriage, which was then sort of the ultimate sign of black and white equality.

And so, I guess, I just want to suggest here that there are — people hold their beliefs very deeply, and they read scripture by their own lights. You know, as we see in history, their interpretations of that scripture change over time.

And that in the — I’m just struck by the degree to which religious arguments were mobilized in the 1950’s to argue that — against interracial marriage and integration as against God’s will in a way that arguments have been mobilized in this campaign and the other — many of the other campaigns I have described since Anita Bryant’s argue that we need to do this because homosexuality itself or gay people or the recognition of gay people, the recognition of their equality, is against God’s will.”

Edmund Egan, chief economist for the city and county of San Francisco:

Question: “Can you just briefly describe for me the relationship between lifting that prohibition (Prop 8) and then seeing additional sales tax or hotel tax revenue?”

Answer: “Yes. If we — if the prohibition were lifted, we would see, first, more resident weddings, weddings by same-sex couples who currently reside in San Francisco. And we have projected that additional spending to be about $21 million a year annually.

Particularly when we include — there will also be nonresidents who come to San Francisco to marry. They will also have event-related spending for their weddings. . . They will also generate per-diem spending as visitors to the city. And they will generate hotel business because they will be staying at hotels. The third set of new economic activity associated would be out-of-town guests, which we have assumed would largely come for resident weddings.

They will generate per-diem spending, and they will also help fill hotel rooms. So it’s a combination of the event spending on the wedding itself, and the per-diem spending of visitors generates sales tax revenue. The additional hotel rooms generate hotel tax revenue.”

Question: “What’s the magnitude of the effect of all of this, in your estimate?”

Answer: “The spending effect is on the order of 35 million. The hotel room revenue is on the order of 2-and-a-half-million 25 dollars. And the tax revenue we project at $1.7 million a year for sales tax, and about .9 million a year for hotel tax.”

Question: “Speaking generally, what did you base these calculations on?”

Answer: “We based it on the experience that San Francisco saw with same-sex weddings in 2008.”

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