Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial Closing Arguments Recap: This Time It’s Personal

Oh hi! Hello there! Welcome to the next installment of Judgment Daze, the family funtime media extravaganza where we all perch on the edge of our seats waiting for some people in California to make an either extremely validating or completely infuriating decision about the authenticity of our relationships and whether we are, you know, a danger to children and animals.

We experienced the glory of the Twelve Days of Judgment in January (like the Twelve Days of Christmas only real), where both sides presented arguments on whether Proposition 8 does or does not constitute discrimination, among other things. Feel free to catch up on those and then get back to us, there are some great graphics of women in love with horses, etc:


+ Day One: Judgment Daze: Info, testimony, links, videos and analysis for our kickoff Judgement Daze.
+ Day Two: Anita Bryant Strikes Back: We analyze the history of marriage and the history of anti-gay propaganda, and we fantasize about a West Wing Prop 8 Trial Musical Revue.
+ Day Three: Let’s Get Offensive: In which the other side wants to talk about how gay men sleep around, schools teach children how to be gay, and that because we have Will & Grace, we don’t need equal rights.
+ Day Four: Ilan Meyer on Social Stigma & Prejudice FTW: The other side is getting really desperate. But we’ve got our game faces on for testimony on the effects of prejudice & social stigma on gays and of gay marriage on the economy.
+ Day Five: Everybody’s Hiding Except Me & My Monkey: We laughed, we cried, we asked “is this really happening?” incredulously, and the world spun madly on.
+ Day 6: OurChart – You’re [Cross-Examined] On It: The Mayor stands up for the gays (and his daughter Lisa!), and Lee Badgett testified on how much better the world and our pocketbooks would be with marriage.
+ Day 7: Ex-Gay Camp, Will Truman, Obama, The Mormons, What a Whirlwind! We discuss: the Catholic church’s stance on gays, how conversion therapy doesn’t really work, how gays have almost no political representation, and the Mormons!
+ Day 8: We Musn’t Dwell. Not on Dr.Tam Day! I DO NOT THINK THIS COULD GET ANY CRAZIER. Seriously, I thought I knew how crazy the other side was, BUT I DID NOT KNOW HOW CRAZY THE OTHER SIDE WAS.
+ Day 9: Who Needs Marriage When You Have Bisexuality, You Slippery Slopes? They should replace that show “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” with “Are You Smarter Than A Proposition 8 Attorney, Yes You Are.”
+ Day 10: Kenneth Miller Time is Less Filling, Tries to h8: “Maybe this man is not really a witness at all, but just here to annoy us. ” Because he sure ain’t doing much for the other team…
+ Day 11: Same-Sex Parents Just Don’t Understand: Blankenhorn is the other side’s Big Hope. He claims to be a liberal democrat but opposes same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, it seems the only peers who’ve ever reviewed him are the Americans For Truth About Homosexuality.
+ Day 12: On the Last Day, The Other Side Epically Failed “I feel like there must be some secret clause in legal proceedings that when someone says something this f*cking stupid, they automatically forfeit the case for their team. Like losing the Snitch. The polygamous Snitch.”

Legal Eagle Analysis:

Midway through the trial, Autostraddle brought in Legal Eagle Jessica to answer some of your more complicated questions as our English Literature degrees really only get us so far –

+ Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial, Explained: Lez Legal Eagle Answers Your Lawfully Ignorant Questions: You’ve got questions, she’s got answers.

+Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial Explained Pt. 2: Equal Protection & Why They Do Those Things They Do: Jessica explains the issue of equal protection in the Prop 8 trial happening this week. She’ll tell you what the lawyers are trying to prove, what a suspect class is, and why anyone cares about the economic impact of gay marriage in California.

+ Prop 8 Gay Marriage Trial Explained Part 3: How Do We Win This Thing? Autostraddle’s Legal Eagle is back to explain gender discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause, fundamental rights under the Due Process Clause, and HOW WE WIN THIS.


Part One of Prop 8 Trial Closing Arguments: Team Totally Right’s Turn

Today we are all gathered in front of our computers for the closing arguments; Judge Walker previously issued nine whole pages of important questions that he wanted both sides to address; if you don’t have the attention span to read through the closing arguments themselves, you can read both sides’ answers online. As always, thanks to our good friends at Prop 8 Trial Tracker for liveblogging all of this stuff as it actually happens so that we don’t have to keep refreshing Google news like idiots. Also, Queerty makes a very good point today about how the Prop 8 Trial would best be communicated to the people, it involves Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard.

Anyways! Here we go! Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready. I know I’m not ready.  But here it comes anyways.

1. What Does Marriage Mean?

Team Totally Right is presenting first, the dynamic duo of Ted Olson and David Boies. I have no images of inside the courtroom but I like to imagine they are wearing complementary Spandex suits and capes. Oh shit, we’re actually starting now, kind of; Judge Walker just said “it’s appropriate that we’re here now because June is, after all, the month for weddings.” He wouldn’t say that if he were going to shut us down, would he? Because that would be really fucking mean.

Olson is talking now; he says he wants to talk about marriage itself, “what it means to marry and have that right extinguished.” Yeah okay, let’s do this.

Apparently there are four perspectives on the issue:

1. Those of the Prop h8ers

2. Our feelings (i.e. the plaintiffs)

3. The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States)

4. The “subject of marriage.”

Hm, this feels like in eleventh grade English class when they were all like “there’s also conflict between man and nature, or man and society” and you were like “no, because one of those things isn’t real.” But apparently “the subject of marriage” is a thing, and Olson says he want to look at those four views across the country.

It’s a little difficult to get the gist of this because Rick, our liveblogger, is kind of writing in shorthand, which is totally legit but makes it hard to really get into Olson’s flow.

Basically what we’re talking about now is that the root of the issue is whether or not those who voted for Prop 8 were acting on rational or irrational beliefs. Previous Supreme Court precedents state that “mere negative attitudes are not supportable.” What that means is that if people have no justifiable reason to believe that same-sex marriage would cause harm to anyone, then they’re just haters and no one needs to base a court decision on their feelings.

So really that’s what this whole trial is about – the opposition trying to prove that there’s at least reason to believe that gay people might harm America – which is why we’re all so fucking obsessed with its outcome, even those of us who aren’t trying to get hitched in California.

I don’t know if this image is really related, but I think it’s important to consider:


2. Love & Marriage, Love and Marriage, Doesn’t Necessarily Go Together With a Baby Carriage

Olson’s now pointing out that even though Prop 8 argues that marriage is an important heterosexual institution tied to procreation that it’s never been defined that way legally before; the right to marry has never been conditional like that in any previous case.

Olson also calls the h8ers out on a little bit of backtracking; their main message during the campaign was straight-up homophobia – gay people are dangerous, will give you osteoporosis and bad credit, etc – and when they went to trial, they suddenly became very concerned specifically with the idea of procreation.

Also concerned with procreation? These people:

And didn’t that turn out nice?

So far Olson seems to be going over some pretty basic stuff – right of liberty and privacy, there’s no evidence that same-sex marriage hurts traditional marriage, etc. I’m assuming that he’s either just warming up or lulling the h8ers into a false sense of security, because I am 100% sure this man can kill people with his mind.

Get excited y’all. Here’s a little teaser – he says he’s “going to play some testimony in a bit,” and I bet it will be fucking awesome. For now, he’s just saying that “marriage is the most important relationship in life… older than a bill of rights, a liberty and right that should be equally available to a person in a homosexual relationship as it is to a hetero couple.” You tell ‘em, honey.


3. Sandra Stier Redux

They’re now playing recordings of Sandra Stier, one of the original plaintiffs in this trial. When asked how marriage would change her life, Steer answered that she would feel “more secure, more accepted, more pride, less protective of my kids, [less worry that they would feel] shame and sense of not belonging.” She says that she and her partner will be okay, they’re “big strong women,” but that her kids and her grandkids really need this.

Olson says that he was really “struck” by how Stier really just wanted her kids to feel okay, and how the h8ers told citizens of California that like the WORST POSSIBLE THING, worse than earthquakes and landslides and droughts and really expensive gas and prostate exams, would be anyone thinking that gay people were okay ever, especially if they were children. This is a good point I think! Thanks Olson! He also points out that even the defendants’ witness Blankenhorn said that acceptance would “strengthen marriage,” giving us all an opportunity to wax nostalgic about how fucking insane that man was.

He also argues that even though gay marriage hasn’t gone to the Supreme Court (although it almost definitely will in the next few years) a series of other cases before it set a strong precedent for it. He says that the current plaintiffs are “in the same position as Mildred Jeeter and Richard Loving in 1967, who did not want to change marriage, just wanted to marry a person of a different race whom they loved… that’s all plaintiffs want, right to marry people of the same sex.”

The Supreme Court said “conduct of marriage is a protected [institutional] right;” Prop 8 takes away that right. Well! I guess we can just wrap up here, then!


4. Our Storied History of Discrimination

Actually though we’re just going to talk a little more about past discrimination cases, which apparently Olson enjoys as a little light reading. That’s what I look for in a man, someone who likes to sit by a roaring fire and leaf through San Francisco’s decisions on Chinese Americans.

Oh shit son, here’s a doozy – Judge Walker just asked this case would be different if California had never had marriage at all. I kind of hate it when people ask that, because I mean obvs yes, we wouldn’t have those adorable wedding photos of Portia and Ellen first of all:

But here’s what Olson says: that the facts here w/r/t marriage are stronger because there was a period of time when it was legal, and because history has shown that in general, rights tend to be curtailed upon by voter initiatives, like the one that ended already-legal marriage in CA. And ultimately, it’s all about the fact that California already had marriage – as Olson says, marriage for same-sex couples was already in the Constitution. It can’t be taken away unless there’s “compelling reason” by the state.

And when something like that is put on the table, especially when there’s a suspect class involved (like gender, or race, or sexual orientation) you have to be really fucking careful about that “compelling reason.”

Olson says that to change this fundamentally fair state of things – to rewrite the constitution so it doesn’t give people a baseline level of liberty – is incredibly dangerous. “What could be a stronger signal that it’s okay to discriminate?”

Olson brings up the Loving interracial marriage case again, and does a neat little trick where he points out that the principle of protected groups has been extended to sexual orientation from race before in the Romer case, and that the Loving case makes it legal for couples of any racial makeup to marry, so…. transitive property, right? It’s discrimination to keep same-sex couples from marrying. The end.


5. Do Gays Hurt Marriage?

JK! This never ends, obvi.

The judge now asks if, even if there’s no evidence to prove that gays hurt marriage, voters can’t rely on “everyday common experiences” to inform their decision. And now we can tell that Olson is really getting warmed up; he says that sure, common sense is fine, but is it really common sense if it’s, um, completely wrong?

“That can’t be it because there’s no evidence that any one person won’t marry because “they” can marry. There’s no evidence that through intimate relationships, God forbid, procreation will decrease. There’s no reason here to say that same-sex marriage is not okay because it means gay people are not okay.”


6. Discrimination vs. Unlawful Discrimination

Now Judge Walker asks about the difference between “discrimination” and “unlawful discrimination,” which is a distinction that’s honestly kind of giving me a migraine because really what the fuck is that, but Olson runs with it:

“Voters voted for [Prop 8] because people are uncomfortable with gay people… same as in the Loving case. People honestly felt that it was wrong to mix races. [They] were permitted under the constitution to think that, but they were not permitted to put that into law.”

I think we’re tag-teaming this one a little because now Terry Stewart (an attorney for the city of San Francisco) is also talking, but that’s cool because if I were Olson I would need to sit down too. I imagine him speaking those last lines in an impassioned, booming voice, kind of like Braveheart, with woad on his face and everything.

Anyways, Stewart says that Prop 8 is actually really fucking harmful to California and also to my heart (she doesn’t say that but it’s true) because “harms are visited on society as a whole because society as a whole pays for the cost of the harm.” That’s very Fern Gully of them. Also it’s harmful because it means that Neil Patrick Harris isn’t going to have a glammed-out million-dollar wedding there, which would probably employ a lot of our friends as cater-waiters.

And also Stewart says that according to the Romer case, “laws that cannot be explained or understood by any rational thinking cannot be supported.” Um, YES. Like I almost cannot believe that is a thing he has to say out loud.


7. It’s Money Honey

We confirm that San Francisco and therefore the entire rest of the state will lose a shit-ton of money without same-sex marriage, and also that it is the “City of Love.” Yes. That is a thing they said.

Here’s Exhibit A for that:

Also Stewart just said “my colleague TO,” which is probably just abbreviated in the liveblog but which I’m really hoping is a real thing. Like hey, what’s up, TO. What you doing this weekend. Oh you know ending inequality for all, kissing babies.

Oh and here’s an interesting angle: all the cash money spent by the state for our Medicaid-funded therapy (IT’S A LOT)…

…and money for more law enforcement because “when people feel stigma, people are empowered to commit hate crimes.” Isn’t that a lovely idea? Feeling “empowered” to commit a hate crime?

Stewart does a good job arguing that the law has the capacity to actually change these things in our culture; it sets an example for people as to what our cultural values are, and while states with less anti-gay stigma are more likely to pass gay-friendly laws, passing gay-friendly laws can also make a state less anti-gay. Does that make sense? Just trust me on this one.


8. Something About Marriage Licenses

Now Stewart is sitting down again and we’re quizzing the, uh, Alameda County Registrar about marriage licenses. It turns out that depending on how you do it, you can actually fill out “groom” and “groom” on the marriage license online applications, but it turns out that no matter how clever and charming you are on the Registrar’s computer they still can’t marry you.

The registrar confirms that if two people walk in who look like they’re the same sex, they now have to tell them to leave without a license. To be fair, the registrar doesn’t sound super pumped about this.

Also is this a real thing? Apparently “only opposite-sex couples can become domestic partners if over 62?” Really? Anyways this leads to one good line where the registrar says that “I imagine it would be like a bar, where you’d have to ask for ID,” and on that note we break for lunch.

Lunchtime guys! Go get lunch! I wonder what the h8ers are eating, probably gay babies.

We know what they'll be drinking...

Next: The Other Team Goes to Bat.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1129 articles for us.


  1. Hey Tankiegirlie, I discovered AutoS yesterday and had to pass the site along over at Huff Po. I got totally wrapped in the trial – and thanks to Rachel & Jessica I learned tons, laughed and stayed mostly sane. Stopped back today to see if R had touched base with a clairvoyant or something so we all can know what happens next!! jt (dallas, tx)

  2. okay so i read this late but my number one feeling is judge walker is amazing because i don’t understand how he managed to sit through all of cooper’s bullshit and not, like, throw a building at him.

  3. Rachel? Um. Hi. You know that I’m honored to have you writing for us, yeah? That I am SO VERY THANKFUL you write these recaps so I can understand the hate, yes? You know this. And you’ve made my head explode. Really really good job here you fancy lady.

    Also, for the record, I really literally laughed out loud by myself reading this:
    “…and Cooper goes on a rant worthy of that one woman who wanders through the Public Gardens screaming sometimes.” amazing. just. Amazing.

  4. ‘“without the marital relationship, society would come to an end”’ What in the worllld Mr. Cooper?? Thank you for plowing through his unintelligible closing argument Rachel, great recap!

  5. Pingback: Mombian » Blog Archive » Weekly Political Roundup: Prop 8 Closing Arguments Edition

  6. So agreed. some of my favorites are:

    – I like to imagine they are wearing complementary Spandex suits and capes.
    – “hey, what’s up, TO. What you doing this weekend?”
    “Oh you know ending inequality for all, kissing babies.”
    – Also your Mom called…
    – “4. I Rule That Cooper is Just Fucking Crazy.” I think a few of us actually questioned if there was a Tsunami that we had somehow not realized was occuring bc we’re paying so much attention to Prop 8 news. (No? Just me then.)

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