NCLR’s Legal Director Shannon Minter on Perry v Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 8

cross-posted from Pam’s House Blend

Today was another blockbuster day in the Perry trial, with more razor sharp testimony from Professor Gary Segura, followed by disturbing testimony by one of the official proponents of Prop 8, Dr. Hak-Shing William (“Bill”) Tam.

Yesterday closed with expert testimony from Professor Segura, an authority on political representation. The plaintiffs called Professor Segura to provide evidence that LGBT people lack sufficient political power to effectively protect their own interests through the political process. This will help to establish that laws discriminating based on sexual orientation, like Prop 8, should receive heightened constitutional scrutiny.

Professor Segura returned to the stand this morning for a long, drawn-out cross-examination by the proponents’ attorney David Thompson.  Thompson’s strategy seemed to be to ask questions addressing the ways in which LGBT people have made some political progress, as if any evidence of progress indicates that LGBT people do not face discrimination.

Despite repeated promptings from Judge Walker to move things along, Thompson presented Professor Segura with repetitive examples of celebrities, prominent politicians, religious organizations, and businesses that have expressed support for LGBT people.  On redirect (brilliantly conducted by Ted Boutrous of Gibson Dunn), Professor Segura demolished Thompson’s attempt to paint a false picture of LGBT people as politically powerful.  In a few short strokes, Professor Segura explained that it is meaningless to compare only the number of groups on each side, without looking at their size, influence, and ability to mobilize voters.  For example, while hundreds of churches opposed Prop 8, literally thousands supported it.  By any reasonable measure, Professor Segura explained, the Prop 8 proponents were able to garner a magnitude of support that dwarfed that given to the other side.

Thompson also asked Professor Segura a series of questions about stories of alleged violence against Prop 8 supporters, including a particularly sensational interview of one alleged victim by Bill O’Reilly.  This is part of the defense’s (absurd) effort to show that voters enacted Prop 8 for reasons other than bias against LGBT people.  On redirect, Professor Segura testified that it was “doubtful in the extreme” that any significant portion of the Yes on 8 vote was based on alleged violence against Prop 8 supporters.  He also testified that there were significantly increased rates of anti-LGBT hate violence in California in 2008, and that any meaningful analysis would consider the incidence of violence on both sides.

Thompson’s cross-examination displayed a surprising lack of knowledge regarding the current state of laws affecting LGBT people. Continuing his attempt to show that LGBT people have political power, for example, Thompson asserted that LGBT have had “great political success” securing adoption rights. Professor Segura corrected him, noting that LGBT people have in fact suffered recent setbacks in several states that have enacted discriminatory adoption laws.

In a powerful final statement, Professor Segura testified that to conclude that gay people have political power after considering all the relevant evidence – from the incidence of anti-gay hate violence to the national juggernaut of anti-gay initiatives would be the equivalent of “political science malpractice.”

After lunch, the plaintiffs called Dr.  Tam, an official proponent of Prop 8.  Dr. Tam, a leader in the Chinese evangelical Christian community, was actively involved in the signature gathering effort and the Yes on 8 campaign.

Dr. Tam originally intervened in this case as a party to defend Prop 8, but recently sought to withdraw from the case, claiming that he fears harassment from having his name publicly  associated with the trial. Judge Walker decided to defer any ruling on whether Dr. Tam will be allowed to withdraw until after his testimony, noting that “there have to be some consequences to joining a case, making the other party litigate against you, and then dropping out.”

David Boies examined Dr. Tam as an adverse witness, meaning that leading questions were allowed as in a cross-examination.  It was a privilege to see him in action.  At a speedy pace, Boies led Dr. Tam through a series of documents showing that Dr. Tam was a leader in the Yes on 8 campaign and that he coordinated his activities closely with ProtectMarriage.com, the official campaign organization.  Boies’s skilled examination, with its laser-like precision, kept everyone in the courtroom on the edge of their seats for much of the afternoon.

Boies’s examination focused on several highly offensive and inflammatory statements that Dr. Tam and organizations in which he is involved have made about homosexuality and the so-called “gay agenda.”  By the end of the day, Boies had offered powerful evidence that the official Yes on 8 campaign organization and its campaign manager, Schubert Flint Public Affairs, were well aware of Dr. Tam’s outrageous statements before the election.

Dr. Tam testified that he is the Secretary of an organization, 1man1woman.net, whose website states that “studies show that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia,” and that “homosexuals are 12 times more likely to abuse children.” Dr. Tam testified that, to this day, he believes those statements are true.  Dr. Tam acknowledged that another document he authored in support of Prop. 8 claimed that after winning marriage equality, LGBT people intended to “legalize having sex with children.” Dr. Tam also acknowledged saying, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News, “We hope to convince Asian-Americans that gay marriage will cause more children to experiment with the gay lifestyle, and that lifestyle comes with all kinds of disease.”

Boies wrapped up Dr. Tam’s testimony by establishing that the Yes on 8 campaign had a tightly coordinated public messaging policy, that the campaign coalition was well aware of Dr. Tam’s 1man1woman.net website, and that the campaign never asked him to take down any of the material on his website linking homosexuality with pedophilia.

It was clear by the end of Boies’s questioning that no matter how hard the official Prop 8 campaign might try to distance itself from Dr. Tam’s shocking anti-gay rhetoric and lies, Dr. Tam spoke as an official proponent who was also a day-to-day leader with real influence in the campaign.  Today’s testimony revealed the true face of the anti-marriage-equality movement, despite its current attempts to portray itself in a more moderate, media-friendly light. Those who actively campaign to deny equality to same-sex couples deliberately exploit the most vicious and false anti-gay stereotypes and create a climate of fear and hostility in which LGBT people are seen as less than fully human.

Tomorrow we will hear from Dr. Gregory Herek, an expert on sexual orientation, who will be the last witness for the plaintiffs.

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