Monday, February 22, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Re-Enactment, Day 2 Chapter 2

The Defendant-Intervenor’s lawyer David Thompson cross-examines Dr. Nancy Cott. He introduces us to the snotty, condescending method of cross-examination the defendants will use throughout the whole trial. Starting off the bat, he tries to undermine her qualifications for her testimony and slime her as a "librul." Presenting a pile of Cott’s statements from a decades-long career, he presses her to recognize defendants’ version of marriage – a Christian, monogamous institution, focused on children -- and to admit the changes she described in direct would destroy the univocal vision. She tries to stick to her original story – that marriage was always partly secular and changed in content as the society changed, mostly, she thinks, for the better – integrating the races, emancipating women. Thompson asks Cott if she agrees with a wide variety of quotations taken from law review articles and other publications on marriage written by other people; she does not agree, for example, that allowing same-sex couples to marry is “breathtakingly subversive.” He does get her to agree with him that thinking of humans in binary male/female terms is universal across cultures, which could feed the defense theme that the Plaintiffs’ are asking the court to experiment in novel and risky ways. [Other witnesses in the trial will address such “third-gender” people as Hijras in India, not to mention that Dr. Cott herself has noted that same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has not prevented the condition of opposite-sex marriage to improve there.] Her testimony is crucial, because Defense-Intervenors’ case depends heavily on establishing that heterosexual union is the only core meaning of marriage, so that any change, however harmless by normal standards of harm, will, by definition, destroy the institution.

Attorney Thompson and Cott address possible religious bases of colonial marriage laws; the legal doctrine called “coverture” and old California laws treating men and women differently in marriage; and the social meaning of marriage, where he gets her to agree that the social understanding of marriage has societal effects and that a person’s views about same-sex couples getting married are “quite affected” by various factors including their friends and their religion. Thompson then explores with Cott the motivations of congressional supporters of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), including concerns for social stability, religious beliefs, and fear of a slippery slope to legalized polygamy. He then tries to treat her as an authority on groups’ political power and secures her agreement in effect that there is less prejudice against gay and lesbian people today -- apparently trying to establish as truth the utterly erroneous idea that the LGBT populace has significant political power.

Again, "the gay activist judge" bends over backwards for the Defense!!!

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