It’s well worth your time to spend the hour and a half or so it takes to view the online broadcast of the dramatic reading of a distillation of the transcript of the trial that ultimately found California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. The reading of the documentary play, put together by Dustin Lance Black, took place on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 here in Los Angeles, and featured a host of Hollywood celebrities. You can see it by going to www.afer.org.
There you will witness prejudice put on trial. And it isn’t pretty, at least not for the prejudiced. All of the usual tired nostrums are trotted out by the defenders of Prop. 8, though to no avail. Indeed, their main arguments, that marriage between two individuals of the same sex is somehow corrosive and harmful to traditional marriage, and that children will in some way be harmed, are not only laid to rest, but a stake is driven through the very heart of these arguments. No wonder the backers of Prop. 8 did not want you to see this trial.
The defense of Proposition 8 is, in fact, so weak, so flimsy, so unsubstantial, so lacking in rational basis, in a word so prejudiced, that you almost – almost – wind up feeling sorry for Charles Cooper, the defending attorney. He comes across in Kevin Bacon’s reading as a man on the edge. It is clear that he fervently believes what he is saying, namely, that allowing gay people to marry will in some way be harmful to society and to the rearing of children. Unfortunately, for him at least, and for his cause, he cannot say why. All he can do is assert that this is what he believes. And by the end, it is clear enough that the mere assertion of a belief is not reason enough for the government to deny basic legal rights to gay citizens of the United States.
The defendants of the proposition were able to bring very few expert witnesses to the trial, and those who did show, David Blankenhorn in particular, the founder of the Institute for American Values, give testimony which it would be almost kind to call bumbling and maladroit. On the other hand, the words of the defendants, the two couples themselves who brought suit in the first place (Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, and Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir and their children) are moving and eloquent testimonials to the power of love and to the enduring desire on the part of human beings to be able to share their lives with a partner in marriage.
The legal team of David Boies and Theodore Olson, played movingly by George Clooney and Martin Sheen respectively, are eminent attorneys who are clearly at the top of their field. They cross-examine and they disclaim, they argue and question, and they speak with the force not just of the law, but of truth and justice.
I will admit that when the trial was originally announced, I wondered if it was wise to risk so great a prize by bringing it to a courtroom, where prejudice might win out. Better perhaps, I thought, to wait and try again at the ballot box some time in the future, once public opinion had evolved. But I was wrong. This trial brings out the weakness, the rank animus, and the ignorance of those who are against gay marriage in a way that I never could have dreamed. And this play – this dramatic reading called simply “8” – refines and condenses those arguments, which took place over the course of weeks, into a riveting ninety minutes.
But again, don’t just take my word for it. Go to the website of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), and see for yourself. You won’t regret the time you spent, and you will come away feeling heartened and uplifted that, in the end, truth and justice will win out.
And who knows? Maybe someday, after 32 wonderful years of living together, when equity and equality will have won out over bigotry and ignorance, my partner and I may even decide to someday get married. We’ll keep you posted. But for now, and despite all that has been said and demonstrated, it seems as though the debate still rages on.