Day Four of the Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial: Ilan Meyer on Social Stigma & Prejudice FTW

Hello our fine feathered friends and welcome to Day Four of the Prop 8 EXTRAVAGANZA. Today was the longest day EVER so far in this trial. So far we have found it really satisfying, because we’ve always wanted, all this time, for these people to have to explain these ideas in court where logic is supposed to rule the day and lots of big words are written in Latin, the most serious language of all time. See; elections are a contest of who is better at manipulating the media and hence; the public. But court cases are determined not by your marketing skills, but by the actual constitution of your argument, fair & square. So having this happen is kind of amazing.

Again, we must thank our favorite livebloggers (there are actually many now, who knew?) at prop8trialtracker.com.

Last time on “Judgment Daze”:  Mr. Chauncey and L. Peplau deftly fielded questions which attempted to prove that gays are trendy, not discriminated against, promiscuous, recruiting children via schools, spreading AIDS, having unstable relationships, raising divorce rates and being offensive to Mormons.

We then took a trip down the twisted mind of Mr. Tam (the guy who decided not to show up ’cause he was too scared) who said that pedophilia was a goal of the gay agenda. In conclusion, our historical witness and our social psychologist witness demonstrated that using hateful misinformation on gays for your own political ends is morally, ethically and legally wrong and that gay marriage will make people happier. Also; civil unions are not enough and not the same and not equivalent to marriage.

Okay are we ready? As President Gaga Would Say, ARE YOU LISTENING?

Day Four of the Prop 8 Trial : January 14, 2010

Part One: Money Money Money Money=

Edwin A. Egan is up now, he’s the money man, here to tell you how letting gay people get married will help the economy. Like Neil Patrick Harris’s part in the Prop 8 Musical! This has always been one of our strongest arguments to persuade naysayers, but you know; who needs our money when you have the prosperity gospel?

Mr. Ed is the Chief Economist, City and County of SF, director of the office of economic analysis within the controller’s office of SF. and  is an Adjunct Prof. at UC Berkeley where he teaches “Urban and Regional Economy” to masters and PhD students.

Ed talks for a while about how 1) legalization of same-sex marriage would mean more married couples in SF, 2) married couples generate more wealth than their non-married counterparts, 3) these couples are happier b/c they have more money, and 4) the money they spend stimulates the economy, which makes YOU happier because you can get your job at Lush/Starbucks/Whole Foods back.

More interestingly and more importantly, he talks about how being married and being less poor is good for the gays:

Ed: Legalizing same-sex marriage would create healthier behaviors of individuals. A number of articles in economic literature show that married individuals behave in more healthy ways and are more healthy. There’s a well known economic principle of healthy work force which yields higher wages due to higher worker productivity and this leads to higher payroll tax revenue for city.

We all know that sick gays are the saddest thing. ALSO ALSO I bet you didn’t think this was going to be about healthcare too, did you? BUT IT IS. “Healthier behavior yields less reliance on healthcare system including public healthcare system… in my opinion if same-sex marriage were legal and folks marry and more companies extend benefits to same-sex couples, companies would cover partners who are now not covered. So if people can marry, they get insurance and that’s going to save the county money… You’d see this reduction in cost to uninsured.

This is the kind of thing Republicans love, right? Not having to pay for our Xanax? Autostraddle has many feelings about healthcare in America – we did a roundtable about it! – but one feeling we have is definitely that 1) we would like to be on less Xanax and 2) If not, we’d like to get this Xanax from a doctor and 3) we would like to stop having to beg the state to pay for it b/c it’s expensive and we’re broke. So thanks for that one, Ed!

And just because it can’t hurt to say it one more time:

Ed: I believe legalized same-sex marriage would reduce discrimination against LGBT people. Prohibition of marriage against same sex couples is a form of discrimination. If that prohibition is removed, over time less discrimination against LGBTs.

Now we’re going to do something really exciting and talk about the economic implications of anti-gay discrimination! This is good because it is v. quantifiable, and while the RNC has never been crazy about the gays, it’s pretty difficult for them to argue against wasting millions of tax dollars. Which is exactly what Ed Egan says they’re doing! Listen!

PX 810 [a chart being exhibited in the courtroom] shows that more that nearly 109,000 school absences are based on harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. $39.9 million per year in funding from state does not come due to these absences because schools get state money for days attended. To the extent that excessive absences reduce the quality of education, [they] lead to long term negative economic consequences.

Except then – insert your own brakes-screeching-to-a-halt sound effect here – some Legal Stuff happens, which I have to admit I do not fully understand, but which stops Ed from continuing his line of discussion to talk about hate crimes. Apparently “Prop. 8 says that they cannot use these for testimony on hate crimes, because we did not have the chance to depose him (Prop 8′s lawyer?) on hate crimes because he is not an expert in hate crimes.”

The bottom line is, we have no way to introduce the topic of hate crimes. Yes, this is kind of a downer. As are, you know, hate crimes. Hopefully the large monetary figures that Ed is going to discuss in the next section will be even more effective on conservative lawmakers than hearing about innocent queers bleeding in the streets!

If Judge Judy was in charge she would make everyone consider The Laramie Project:

Part Two: In Which We Discuss How Every American Deserves To Spend a Sh*t-ton of Money on a Wedding and Other Ways California Could Bank

Let’s be honest, gay Californians – you’re really just waiting for the outcome of this trial so you can blow a ton of cash on two matching organza wedding dresses covered in diamonds and gold leaf, aren’t you? Ideally, yes.

So here’s what we learn: California could get $21 million per year per resident wedding, and non-resident weddings would produce event, per diem and hotel revenue. Out-of-town guests who come for resident weddings also spend per diem, on sushi and drugs and Michael Jackson memorabilia and Californian stuff, totaling $25 million hotel revenue and a bunch more in sales tax & hotel tax.

A cute photo of two lesbians by Robin Roemer

Ed says that once everybody is doing it, this rate might not stay at this level, BUT STILL. For a state that is literally going bankrupt, I feel as if this should be a compelling argument.

Now we talk a little more about other ways in which gay marriage would increase state revenue – guys I know this has a lot of numbers in it and it’s boring for me too, I almost failed Economics of Race and Gender, but stay with me because this is about how GAYS WILL SAVE THE WORLD - if gays could marry, (and DOMA was repealed HINT HINT) they would save $440 in income tax per couple per year, which would presumably be spent in California on power tools or IKEA or vibrators, and flood the economy with more money. Also, and this is really interesting, Ed says that it currently costs just the city of San Francisco $1 million per year in administrative costs for enforcing anti-discrimination regulations, making sure that people provide same-sex partner coverage when they say they will. Rick says: “Point: if they are just married, this all goes away. The city saves by not having to deal with a bizarre construct to help prevent discrimination that does not exist with opposite sex couples.” What a novel idea, amirite?

Cross-examination begins! Basically this is like 25 minutes of cross-examining attorney Patterson asking Ed about the “pent up demand” for marriage in the gay community. I think he’s trying to make some kind of point, like there won’t be as many marriages as Ed is implying, but honestly I don’t think anyone cares.

Patterson is asking if things are “pent up” in every single question and I’m sorry, but it just sounds super homoerotic! Is anyone else feeling this? Like maybe there is a little “pent up demand” in that courtroom, and there’s a cross-examining attorney that needs to let off a little steam? Maybe this is just our combined effort to turn this entire court case into Angels in America or The L Word but srsly JOE PITT ANYONE. Oh, let’s take a break:

Either way, apparently laughter echoed from the rafters of the court room at one point, that was how redonkulus this thing got. It ends with Egan patiently explaining to Patterson that yes, it’s true you did see a dropoff in appointments with the city clerk for marriage licenses, because THEY WERE NO LONGER LEGAL TO OBTAIN. Maybe they should be less concerned about whether kids are reading Heather’s Two Mommies in school and worry more about whether they’re growing up to be idiots like this guy.

Ok ok ok and now we’re talking about Massachusetts! They do some confusing math to compare the number of same-sex couples in MA to CA, which I can’t follow because I stopped learning math in like the sixth grade, but apparently what’s happening here is Patterson is trying to get Ed to admit that there aren’t enough gay couples in SF to equal the numbers he got in his calculations.

Really? Calling out the professional economist on his addition? That’s your plan?

They talk about numbers for a long time, and Patterson challenges Ed by saying that a lot of the numbers he uses for his projections in CA are made up. To be honest, I don’t know enough about economic studies to tell how effective Patterson is being.

As Rick says in his liveblog, though, it’s definitely true that same-sex couples spend money on weddings, even if they’ve already performed some kind of ceremony on their own, and Massachusetts is proof.

Interlude: In Which the H8ers Want Everything Off the Record:

After the Judge’s announcement that the court had withdrawn from videoing pilot program, Cooper would like to request that the tape recording of the trial cease. Because it is not “within the local rule,” what does that even mean. The Judge smacks him down with a further clarification, and Cooper is all “Oh, uh, thanks for that, uh, clarification, bro.” You’re welcome. It is all being recorded on a tape for us to listen to later, like in the old days. Anyhow, and we’re on …

Part Three: When Patterson tried to Impeach the Witness

The Williams Institute is full of good people who do good things but before we get back to them, here’s a good quote from Rick Jacobs, who had feelings during the break:

“It’s hard to keep up with the world when focusing so intently one piece of it here in this court room. Some might say that in light of the big horror in Haiti and all of the other problems in this country and the world, that we should not focus so much on “the gays.” Well, the above are exactly why this case matters so much. We have to open our society to equality so that all of us can focus our energy and attention on progress, on making our society and country and world better for all, not necessarily something the right wing really wants to have happen (witness Pat Robertson on Haiti).”

Now, in less inspiring news, Patterson is still all over Ed about this “economics” thing, trying to get him to confess that he didn’t take into account the fact that the state might spend extra money on printing all the new marriage licenses. Holy anal retentiveness, Batman! Cross-examination is exhausting.

Bridezilla: Patterson spends, like, forever going over each figure Ed has used and trying to undermine it – “Have you taken into account that some gay people might have elderly or infirm relatives who may not feel like flying out for a wedding and spending money on sushi? Did you take into account that sushi is made of raw fish and poses health risks?” and while I have no idea what most of those questions actually mean, it’s true that he’s gotten Ed to say “No, I did not account for that” a whole bunch of times.

Patterson also says that California is technically capable of providing same-sex coverage for domestic partnerships, so that actual marriage isn’t necessary for the benefits Ed talks about – and the judge calls this “a good point.” DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! He also asks Ed if he’s done any research on what the economic effects will be if opposite-sex marriage decreases, implying that in some crazy Lou Dobbson parallel universe this is an actual possible consequence of gay marriage.

Luckily, our side gets to talk to Ed one more time in the redirect, and does a pretty ok job proving that many cities all over America would in fact save money on anti-discrimination regulations, and that the way Patterson was talking about statistics was mostly crazy. Moving on!

Part Four: In Which We Tackle Stigma

Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health is up. He will testify about the stigma and prejudice gay and lesbians individuals face in society.

This is pretty much our favorite topic. Honestly I’m actually not that concerned about my right to marry. I’m not sure if marriage is my thing yet, or whatnot. I’m fighting for this because I am 100% convinced that eradicating legislated legal discrimination against gays & lesbians will change the social climate in America significantly over time at a rate far faster than we are currently; which is to say VERY FAST. We lean towards the politically correct in America, and I think when it’s no longer legally acceptable to rip on gay people to their face, we’ll start getting somewhere. It’s ugly and embarrassing, but the truth is that the more public and the more familiar markers of normalcy we have, the more things straight people see in us that they also see in themselves, the more they’re going to treat us like human beings. It may be that they’re incapable of seeing us as real human people who have real human relationships until we force them to give us the right of real human marriages.

It looks like Meyer agrees! In slightly different words!

[There is a stigma,] for example, that gay people are incapable of intimate relationships, don’t desire those relationships and may be incapable of such relationships. This is what society says. Intimate relations means marriage, husband, wife, family and community. In all of those, gay people have been described as pariahs, incapable of having those relationships, maybe even undesirable citizens.

To illustrate this idea of stigma, he shows us an excerpt from that book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, which maybe this is dumb of me but I had forgotten anyone ever read that like it was a real book.

What about all the homosexuals who live together happily?

What about them?

They are mighty rare birds among the homosexuals flock. Moreover, the “happy” part remains to be seen. The bitterest argument between husband and wife is a passionate love sonnet by comparison with a dialogue between a butch and his queen. Yes. Happily. Hardly.

WELL THEN.

More importantly, we talk about Prop 8 as an example of stigma. And Meyer isn’t pulling any punches, y’all:

We all grow up thinking that we can achieve goals, but Prop. 8, a constitutional amendment, blocks people from that goal. Domestic partnership does not equate with marriage. I do not refer in stigmatization as any tangible benefit that may accrue from marriage or domestic partners. I deal with the social benefit. Young children do not aspire to be domestic partners; most young people desire and have a respected goal of attaining marriage… domestic partnerships do not have the same social meaning as marriage. I don’t know if it has any social value at all.”

Meyer goes on to talk about “minority stress,” which encompasses things like “expectations of rejection and discrimination” and “internalized homophobia.” There is too much here to recap but really y’all should go read this for yourself! It’s like a little sociology class but about your life!

Also, although it was disappointing that Ed couldn’t talk about hate crimes earlier, Meyer is doing a pretty f*cking fabulous job. “I’ve collected data from 400 gays and lesbians… What was distinctive about it was how many reported family members who perpetrated such crimes such as rape or homelessness. [because of their sexual orientation.]

And what’s great is he doesn’t stop there – he also wants to bring up the “everyday discrimination events,” like being treated poorly by your partner’s parents, having to explain to the DMV that while you can’t check off “married” you’ve been together for 40 years, having the hotel receptionist ask why you need a king size bed… this guy is on, y’all!

And while it’s really validating to hear this said in court in any case, he brings it back to Prop 8 by explaining that Prop 8 intentionally excludes us from marriage and thereby perpetuates stigma, making sure that there’s one more way in which we don’t fit in with “normal” society. “Prop. 8 achieved the literal aims of not allowing gay people to marry, but it sends a message via the constitution that it encourages prejudicial attitudes… Prop. 8 sends a message that it’s very highly valued by our constitution to reject gay people.

Also, just saying, Judge Walker is described as being “very interested” in this. Posed attentively with one index finger resting on his cheek!

Meyer talks for a long time about how stressful and damaging it is to have to hide your sexual orientation or even just come out over and over again every day every time you have to tell the guy at Home Depot that you’re here for a belt sander and not a flowered lampshade, again it’s really long but oh man read it it’s so good. He also confirms that Prop 8 is damaging to our health and wellbeing, and that both factors would improve if it were repealed. Somebody get this guy a medal or something, he’s our MVP for the day.

D: Do you have a view if mental health outcomes for gay and lesbian in CA would improve if Prop. 8 were not law?

M: Yes. Consistent with my work and findings that show that when people are exposed to more stress than less stress they are more likely to get sick, consistent with a law that says to gay people you are not welcome here, your relationships are not valued vs. the opposite has significant power.

Part Five: Someone Name A State Or Something After This Guy, High Fives All Around

Cross-examination time! Are you tired of hearing about this yet? Are you going to go watch Jon Stewart instead?  Hold on, we’re almost done! Some guy tries to get Meyer to admit that earlier studies said that gay men were no more mentally ill than straight men and therefore discrimination doesn’t exist or something, but Meyers is all “I got 99 problems but studies that contradict mine ain’t one,” and it’s great. They go back and forth for a while about exactly how many percentage points of mental illness gay people have in relation to other arbitrarily chosen groups like Latina women, and I think everyone is bored.

The h8er is trying very, very hard, his mother must be v. proud of him, to prove that Meyer’s studies aren’t conclusive. Our fearless liveblogger Rick Jacobs notes that “just for the record, Dr. Meyer is unflappable and a rock star.” The h8er tries to say that Meyer’s studies are flawed because “really, what IS the definition of the LGBT population?” Girlfriend, trust me, we are way ahead of you. You might be wearing a suit and drive a car that was made in the last ten years, but you did NOT invent the who-belongs-in-the-gay-community identity crisis. Meyer knows this, too:

h8er: There is no one correct definition of LGB?
M: For a study.
h8er: Definitions of sexual minorities vary.
M: All definitions vary. That’s why there are definitions.
h8er: At any point people who answer truthfully that they are not LGB will answer truthfully later that they are LGB.
M: Yes, because of the coming out process.

And lastly, cross-examining lawyer does a half-assed job of trying to prove that domestic partnerships are Fun and Safe For Kids or something, and not stigmatized in any way. There is laughter in the courtroom, and WE ARE DONE FOR THE DAY, KIDS. My butt is tired from sitting and all I did was type about it. ARE YOU READY FOR MORE? You better be, we have two weeks of this. GET EXCITED.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 741 articles for us.

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          I have a feeling that we’ll get to the end of all this and the judge will say: “That was all very compelling evidence, and obviously if you use logic the gays win. But I’m just gonna pull out my trusty Magic 8 Ball. ::shake:: It says “Outlook not so good”. Sorry guys, maybe next time!”

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          My fear is that all these eloquent arguments won’t be enough to convince the judge about the unconstitutionality of the initiative, which is what the brief filed is really about. I mean, we can move him to tear and give him all kinds of financial projections, but it really all comes down to that, and I don’t know if our case is strong enough on that aspect. :/

  1. Pingback: Day Four of the Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial: Ilan Meyer on Social … | MyGaySpot

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    I’ve been following your run downs and there is so much to say (if I lived in the USA, I’d want to burn some shit down)… but I have to point out…

    “having the hotel receptionist ask why you need a king size bed…”

    This happens to me and my boyfriend every time we go on vacation. We need to come out to the receptionist. There have even been times where we get to the room to find they’ve given us separate beds. Obvs not the major issue, but I couldn’t help but relate.

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    This was an awesome article. I just hope that more and more people start to realize just how insane and illogical some of these prop 8 people are. I have yet to hear something substantial that would make me go “hmmm…I guess that’s a good point they make”. And of course I hope I never do.

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      yeah me too. that’s why it’s disappointing that this can’t be televised. maybe this is my sick perverted desire for revenge, BUT I SO BADLY WANT TO SEE THIS SHIT GO DOWN! I can’t just keep watching that same West Wing clip over and over again. Well, maybe I can.

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    Whoa, Egan! That school/economy thing is genius.

    Oh, that Bette video was such a good break. So very very good. Did anyone else catch how she faked her out on this kiss at the end? Play with my emotions, Bette! Me, me, me!

    “trying to get him to confess that he didn’t take into account the fact that the state might spend extra money on printing all the new marriage licenses.”
    Really, Patterson?

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