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12/14/2010

NOM thinks Chuck Cooper knocked it out of park; we agree, if by 'park' they mean 'ballpark of factuality'

by Jeremy Hooper

That National Organization for Marriage is upset because "[n]ot a single TV newscast televised [Chuck Cooper's] dramatic and graceful calling out of so-called superlawyers Olson and Boise for the way they have consistently demeaned those with whom they disagree." So okay, here. While no CNN or MSNBC, we'll gladly show the clip, because there are a few canards, misrepresentations, and false victimization strategies that'd we actually like to take a moment and counter:

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Press Conference from ADF Media Relations on Vimeo.

Okay, so let's break it down:

"our opponents do not return that respect to the arguments and the positions that those of us defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 have advanced but rather have seen fit to demean and to ridicule those arguments."

Absolute untruth. Olson and Boies have been nothing but respectful to their opponents as people. But at the same time, they have been unapologetic in challenging/refuting/smacking down the arguments that they see as wrongheaded, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. Because that is kinda, sorta their interest: Ensuring that the law jibes with the nation's governing documents. Ensuring that equal protection is determined by civil fact, not personal, largely faith-based whims.

And let's not even start with the "demean" and "ridicule" asides. The fact that we're even wasting a breath discussing our basic equal rights is something that fits both labels!

"We believe even more troubling is the essential point made with respect to well over 7 million people in this state who supported traditional marriage and the enactment of Prop 8."

The anti-LGBT side needs to stop beginning and ending their concerns for the California population with these "7 million voters" lines. Because on the other side of that figure are the over 6.4 million who voted to preserve equality. Yes, majorities prevail in elections. But this trial is all about whether or not the majority has a right to rollback minority protections. So it's highly disrespectful to California's citizens to act like only the majority matters here.

"We believe that people of good will can disagree in good faith on this question, and that there are good and decent people on both sides of this debate; people from all walks of life, from all political persuasions, from all races and creeds, simply acting according to what they believe is best for their community, their state and themselves. Our opponents don’t agree with that. They believe that everybody on the other side of them in this debate is behaving irrationally, that no defense, no good-faith belief, can be entertained in defense of the institution of marriage which has existed as we pointed out in the court earlier today in every place and in every time in recorded history."

We've made no bones about it: We absolutely believe that it's wrong to bar, limit, or especially take away civil marriage rights. And that is the position that Olson and Boies, like most all supporters of marriage equality, take when addressing this issue: That the denial is wrong under civil law. But what Chuck Cooper is unfairly doing is attributing/humanizing that stance in a way that makes it sound like it personally slanders every voter who supported Prop 8. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In reality, the vast majority of gay activists (and presumably Olson and Boies) understand that a whole host of good, decent people supported Prop 8 for a number of reasons. And most of us also support every single Americans' right to personally loathe gay marriages, if they so choose. But our primary concern is WHETHER. OR. NOT. THESE. PERSONALLY-HELD. NOTIONS. CAN. BE. TURNED. INTO. CIVIL. POLICY. Our belief is that no, they cannot do this. And so while we believe that while any number of the proponent voters may have been voting their hearts, minds, and consciousness, the more prevailing interest here is the false arguments the organized campaign used to rally these hearts, minds, and consciences; the role that direct ballot initiatives play in American civil rights conversations; and the way equal protection and due process apply to the civil marriage licensing process.

We believe that many would-be allies (especially parents) were duped into supporting inequality. We believe that others genuinely supported Prop 8, but have since grown (or will grow) to see that this vote was unfair. We believe that others will always see their faith as coming first, and will therefore never support gays or their rights. But while it's reliable (and admittedly clever) strategy on our opponents' side to act like the big, bad "radicals" are filled with guile for a supposed monolith's personal thoughts and expressions, the truth is that most supporters of civil fairness simply want their neighbor to understand that this church-state nation cannot, should not, and will not function in a way that allows public policy to be shaped by personal religious convictions/condemnations. We'll challenge any player who stands against our rights: But it's the game that's our ultimate concern!

"The place for this question to be decided is the place where it was decided: by the electorate through the democratic process."

Substitute gays for any other group of people under the sun. Then ask yourself if a direct vote should, would, or even could be the be all, end all of a conversation pertaining to the group's rights. And by "ask yourself," that means honestly, not in the typical, pre-answered "pro-family" manner.

"For the plaintiffs to prevail in this case they have to show not only that all the state and federal appellate courts that have addressed this issue, all of whom by the way that have upheld traditional marriage and rejected the arguments advanced today, that all of those judges rendering those decision were irrational, that the Congress that enacted the DOMA that all of those people were irrational, that a large majority of the population of this country is irrational and behaving not in good faith, and that Pres. Obama, for that matter, must presumably be irrational.

That position we believe, with all due respect to our opponents, is not sustainable and is not valid.
"

No, actually:

-Courts that have preserved civil marriage discrimination have been just plain wrong, while the growing number of courts who've supported equal access have seen past the flawed arguments and supported what is both basic and fair.

-The Congress that enacted DOMA was also wrong-headed, with many of the lawmakers, as well as the President who signed the law, now coming out against it.

-The shrinking majority of Americans that still stand with outdated visions of what marriage is and should be are in the wrong on this issue (without need to cast aspersions onto particular motivations), with the growing number of civil marriage equality supporters being the ones who'll put this issue to bed for good (and for the greater good).

-President Obama is wrong to not take the next step and support full equality under the law. We've been saying it since he was Senator Obama. We'll say it until he graduates to the only acceptable position.

Chuck Cooper and his colleagues can believe whatever they want. They are entitled to their own opinions. But the courts will sort out our shared facts.

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