Emotional Opening to Prop. 8 Trial

It was an emotional morning for Jeff Zarillo, 36. At a trial being watched across the nation, he described how he loved his partner, Paul Katami, more than he loves himself, and how he only wants to have “the same joy and happiness” that his parents and brother have in their marriages. Zarillo was the first witness in the Proposition 8 trial, which opened today.

It took 15 minute for Zarillo to complete his testimony, but in that short time he described what it was like to come out as a gay man in the 1980s. His testimony was echoed by his partner, Katami, who takes offence at the slogan “Protect the children,” as if he posed a threat to them: “If you put my nieces and nephews on the stand right now, I’d be the cool uncle.” Attitudes toward gays and lesbians have certainly changed over the past three decades.

That was even evident from the opening statement earlier that morning by attorney Charles Cooper, who is defending Proposition 8. Rather than attack gay marriage, he focused on the protections already afforded to gay couples through the mechanism of legal partnerships. Nevertheless, he also highlighted procreation as what he believes to be the primary purpose of marriage. For him, gay marriage is a risky “experiment.”

People across the country will be watching the trial—and protesting for and against Prop 8—as witnesses take the stand. Many believe that the decision, whatever it may be, will eventually be appealed before the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, some claim, it could have the same impact as Brown v. Board of Education, which ended school segregation. On the other hand, opponents of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, say that this could be comparable Roe v. Wade, the controversial decision that tackled abortion.

The case certainly has its colorful figures. Observers anticipate many more emotional testimonies like those of Zarillo and Katami, but the judge and attorneys will also become instant media stars—especially if it is decided on Wednesday to broadcast the hearings live.

Justice Vaughan Walker has already shown that he intends to take a proactive role in the proceedings by questioning the attorneys and witnesses. Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who are both arguing against Prop 8, are also an unlikely couple. In the past the faced off over the “hanging chad” decision in the contested 2000 presidential election. Olson, a staunch conservative, later went on to serve as U.S. Solicitor General and George W. Bush. Nevertheless, he believes that supporting gay marriage rights does not conflict with his principles, and in fact, that denying rights to gay couples is wrong.

Meanwhile, Charles Cooper, who is defending Prop 8, has a few challenges of his own. Ostensibly, he is representing Governor Schwarzenegger and, by extension, Attorney General Jerry Brown. But Schwarzenegger refuses to comment on the case, while Brown, who is also running for governor, filed a motion stating that he supports the the position of Olson and Boies.

All this could make for the trial of the decade, just 11 days into the new decade.
Read More at the Mercury News.
Read More at the LA Times.
Read More at CNN.

20 Comments

  1. What a bizarre proceeding:  a “trial” over the definition of a word (marriage) when the voters have already explicitly defined the word for the courts and for everyone else.

    Is the court going to rule that the voters defined the word incorrectly?

    If courts are going to take it on themselves to affirm or modify the meanings of words, than there is nothing to prevent a dictatorship of the judiciary.

    Just redifine the term “constitutional republic” to mean “judges get to decide everything they wish to decide.”

    • It’s a slippery slope indeed.  First, in 1865 judges decide the definitions of “slavery” and “involuntary servitude,” and suddenly we can’t own people anymore.  Then in 1967 they decide that “marriage” includes people of different races.  Now they might open “marriage” even further!  What happened to the good old days when we “intellectuals” could sit back on the porch while our crops were picked and enjoy our pure marriages?

      • > What happened to the good old days when we “intellectuals” could sit back on the porch while our crops were picked and enjoy our pure marriages?

        Dear Aptly Named Pseudo:

        Those good old days are TODAY!!!

        We intellectuals have grad students to pick our crops, and the people rather than judges deciding what the definition of marriage is.

        Life is good.  Enjoy!

    • Wrong. This isn’t a trial over a definition.

      It’s a trial over the deprivation of a fundamental right.

      The verb “to vote” was not re-defined when the right to vote was extended to women. It still meant to drop your ballot in the box.

      The verb “to marry” likewise will not be re-defined when (not if) the right to marry is extended to gays.

      And by the way, you should go back to junior high and re-take your civics class. The job of the courts and judges under our constitution *IS* to interpret the meaning of words and phrases like “due process” and “equal protection” – and, yes, even “marriage”.

      If you don’t like that – why don’t you move to China?

      • > Wrong. This isn’t a trial over a definition.

        > The job of the courts and judges under our constitution *IS* to interpret the meaning of words and phrases like “due process” and “equal protection” – and, yes, even “marriage”.

        Dear UN-REAL:

        Oh.  So it’s not about a “definition”, it’s about an “interpretation” of a definition.

        How about this:  Proposition 8 defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

        The courts then interpret the definition as meaning that marriage is between a man and a woman.

        So, where do you go from here?

        I know:  you could claim that the trial is about the NUANCE of the INTERPRETATION of the DEFINITION.

        Or maybe the IMPLICATION of the NUANCE of the INTERPRETATION of the DEFINITION.

        Or how about this:  you could claim that there is an IMPLICATION of the NUANCE of the INTERPRETATION in the PENUMBRA of the DEFINITION.

        The American people have great common sense and they are no longer going to put up with the sophistic conceits of gender narcissists and their nihilist, sociopath enablers.

      • There exists no fundamental right for two men, or two women, to enter into a state of marriage.  Marriage is an innately heterosexual institution, with respect to the Western traditions upon which the idea was founded (irrespective of what guys in Athens might have been doing in 400 BC).

        I can understand why some homosexuals would like it if such a right were granted to them (although I think it would be a mistake to do so), but the idea that there exists some fundamental right to force a re-definition of marriage, as a sex-neutral institution, onto a society that doesn’t actually desire to have that redefinition imposed upon it, is preposterous drivel.  And there is, happily, no real chance the Federal courts will rule otherwise.

  2. So now, let’s say instead of a gay couple suing the State to expand the definition of “marriage”, it was a group of Mormons suing the State to expand the definition of “marriage”? If “marriage” can be changed to “the union of 2 people”, what justification would we have for denying the Mormons “equal protection” and expanding the definition yet further to “a union of 2 or more people”?
    Do I have to move to China too?

    • John, you’re opening up a big can of worms. Should gay Mormons have more than one same-sex spouse?

      (OK, I’m packing for China…)

    • I’ve never understood this argument.

      So next people could have multiple spouses? OK. So what. Big deal. Bring it on.

      Freedom trumps scare tactics.

      • Freedom, in this context, is the sovereign right of the people of the state of California to determine their own community standards for what does, and does not, constitute legal marriage.  And 52.2 percent of our electorate agreed, with respect to Proposition 8, that it remains solely a union of one man and one woman.

  3. At a certain point, people have to deal with the fact that the justice system exists to correct “wrongs” in society regardless of public opinion.
    And the battle isn’t over the definition of marriage. If the legal system is going to recognize marriage as a civil act, and give it benefits like tax breaks and transfer of property, then it has to define marriage as clearly as possible.
    Them saying that two people who are “married” have the same tax rights regardless of whether they’re both men, both women or a man and a woman is different from a teacher telling her class that “hella” means something else.

    • “people have to deal with the fact that the justice system exists to correct ‘wrongs’ in society regardless of public opinion.”

      Your argument would carry a lot of weight…IF the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified.  But it was not.  Thus it remains entirely permissible, with respect to the U.S. Constitution, to draw legal distinctions between a man and a woman.  That is why women still are not subject to Selective Service registration ie., they can’t be drafted.

  4. I think I heard on KQED that marriage was previously defined as a union between a man and a woman of the same race?

    • > I think I heard on KQED that marriage was previously defined as a union between a man and a woman of the same race?

      You’re not channeling Harry Reid, are you?

      Are you going to recycle that stupid, discredited and offensive claim that Blacks are just like homosexuals?

      Brother, you need some maximum strength sensitivity training.  Stop trying to get by with the cheap stuff.

      • “Are you going to recycle that stupid, discredited and offensive claim that Blacks are just like homosexuals?”

        Yeah, they’re all people.

  5. > I think I heard on KQED that marriage was previously defined as a union between a man and a woman of the same race?

    You’re not channeling Harry Reid, are you?

    Are you going to recycle that stupid, discredited and offensive claim that Blacks are just like homosexuals?

    Brother, you need some maximum strength sensitivity training.  Stop trying to get by with the cheap stuff.

    I think I was just asking if that was true.
    Is it?
    And there are other races than black and white…

  6. Homosexuals are not being deprived of any rights here in California.  They have the same right to marry as anyone else, but since marriage is a union of a man and a woman, it is not surprising that very few homosexuals choose to avail themselves of that opportunity.  The notion that if people don’t care for a particular social institution, their rights are being violated if we refuse to re-formulate that institution in such a way as to cater to their desires, is silly.  One could just as easily say that 14-year olds are being denied their right to vote.  14-year olds aren’t eligible to vote, and only a woman is eligible to marry a man.