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Prop 8 Tapes: Why Do Anti-Gay Marriage Lawyers Not Want The Tapes Seen?

by Benjamin Phillips on October 1, 2011

in Benjamin Phillips,Opinion

Post image for Prop 8 Tapes: Why Do Anti-Gay Marriage Lawyers Not Want The Tapes Seen?

I’ve been working a question over and over again in my head ever since U.S. District Judge James Ware ordered the release of video tapes made during the Proposition 8 trial, and after that same material was promply suppressed again thanks to the histrionic efforts of… well I don’t know who exactly, as that is sort of the point, so let’s just say it was John Lithgow from Footloose.

Anyway, something about this whole thing doesn’t make sense to me. Why would the anti-gay proponents of Prop 8 want these tapes suppressed?

It’s not that they haven’t given a reason. The prop 8 supporters have claimed that witnesses may face some kind of retaliation for their testimony. They also mention that the Supreme Court said the trial couldn’t be broadcast live, and that these tapes were made for Judge Walker’s “Personal Use.” In fact, bigots across the nation seem pretty cheesed off that these recordings exist at all.


Look, I am not a lawyer. In fact, I’ve seen just enough “Law and Order” to sufficiently scramble my brains to the point where if there was something the opposite of a lawyer, I would be that. I don’t know anything about the legal arguments involved in this case, or how strong they are, or what statutory basis exists to support the release or suppression of this material. I honestly don’t care. I feel it should be seen, mostly because I want to see it. Plus I’m pretty sure it makes homophobic people look bad, which is always nice.

My question is one of motivation. Why wouldn’t the hate spewing bile throwers that support this reprehensible amendment to California’s constitution want this information out there? I thought this was supposed to be their best argument for opposing gay marriage, laid out in all its legal splendor. It was their opportunity to once and for all demonstrate in a court of law the dangers of the “gay menace,” and illustrate the validity of their point of view for all to see. Not only could they win a major victory in their quest to pee in the lemonade of LGBT people everywhere, but they could also prove beyond a doubt the righteousness of their position. Wasn’t that the premise around which their entire case was made? Why then would they fight so tirelessly to keep this grand display a secret?

I think it’s because they know their argument sounds weak, and they are too cowardly to put their names on it. No real basis for their bigotry exists, and they know it.

Also, they don’t like a fair fight, because they can’t win one. Their ability to market the “evils of homosexuality” depends entirely on being able to define what being gay means. The basis for their hatred only seems plausible inside the dense atmosphere of misinformation, slander, and suppression that they must create in order to sustain their resistance. They can only exist for as long as they can convince people that gays destroy marriages, corrupt the young, and poison society. Once the pink boogeyman is revealed as simply one more type of person, no more or less dangerous than any other random stranger, the entire structure collapses. Without a full cast of society destroying villains, anti-gay activists are just nosy bigots who should probably mind their own business.

Once they have to make their case juxtaposed against actual non-threatening gay families, they are revealed as the bullies they really are. Every statement from every witness becomes its own little PR nightmare. This is the reason they don’t want these tapes seen.

And let us dispense with the notion that these craven, nasty, and boundlessly vile witnesses who took the stand to support Prop 8 should enjoy any anonymity. They say they want these tapes suppressed to prevent a “chilling effect.” I had to look this up, so please forgive my simplistic explanation, but a chilling effect is basically this: A witness is put in a position where they are forced to speak to their beliefs on a certain matter. The nature of these beliefs are such that expounding them would hurt their reputations, and as a result of the negative consequences prompt the witness to censor themselves. I call this the “I hate gays, I just don’t want them to know about it so I can keep getting their money” rule. Screw you. I have a right to know who hates me, or at least who hates me enough to say so in a court of law.

There is a misunderstanding about free speech that has gotten a little out of hand, and I’d like to clear it up now. As an American citizen, you are free to say anything you want without fear of governmental sanction. This in no way protects you from other people thinking you are an asshole for what you said. It’s a sort of free speech symbiosis. It’s called taking responsibility for what you say, or to put it more plainly, integrity.

Conservatives can’t have it both ways. They can’t both attempt to dehumanize the LGBT community, and then strut around like they are fully inclusive people with a few differences of opinion. They can’t both say bigoted things, and then claim not to be bigots. It doesn’t work like that.

Mostly I’m confused about the logic involved. These people are aware enough of themselves to know that suppressing these tapes is a good idea for them. They know how they will come off. They know that the picture they have painted of gay people is a lie, which is why they are scrambling to cover it up.

Yet, if their argument is based on nothing, why make that argument in the first place? Where is this hate coming from? Nowhere? Is it because they think gay sex is icky? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a sort of impenetrable homophobic paradox.

And nobody say anything to me about religion. We need to stop pretending that religion has anything to do with it. The Bible says all kinds of crazy things about all manner of subjects. Nobody seems to have any problem with divorce for example, and that is covered at much greater length and far more exacting detail. The religion thing is just an excuse. It is a difficult to refute, faith-based dodge masking simple unrefined hate. I’m looking for the true source. The spark that caused all this hate. I honestly have no idea what it is.

But maybe if I can see those tapes I might be able to get a little closer to finding out, though if John Lithgow1 gets his way, I’ll never get that chance.

1. Apologies to Mr. Lithgow, who by all accounts gave a brilliant performance as Ted Olson in the Dustin Lance Black penned Broadway adaptation of the Prop 8 trial. He is probably a really cool guy. He is clearly talented, and anyone who can convincingly play Reverend Shaw Moore, and Roberta Muldoon, and that creepy guy from Dexter deserves a mantle crushing number of gold statues. Also, to be fair, Reverend Moore sort of turns it around at the end of that movie. It’s those book burners we need to be worried about. I wonder where they would come down on Prop 8? Do those people look familiar to any of you “Protect Marriage” ditto heads? Do you really want to count yourselves among the book burners? There is still time to have the “I’ve been such a fool” moment. It’s not too late.

(Image: via reenactment video, not an actual Prop 8 tape image.)


Benjamin Phillips is a Humor Writer, Web Developer, Civics Nerd, and all around crank that spends entirely too much time shouting with deep exasperation at the television, especially whenever cable news is on. He lives in St. Louis, MO and spends most of his time staring at various LCD screens, occasionally taking walks in the park whenever his boyfriend becomes sufficiently convinced that Benjamin is becoming a reclusive hermit person. He is available for children’s parties, provided that those children are entertained by hearing a complete windbag talk for two hours about the importance of science education, or worse yet, poorly researched anecdotes PROVING that James Buchanan was totally gay. If civilization were to collapse due to zombie hoards or nuclear holocaust, Benjamin would be among the first to die as he has no useful skills of any kind. The post-apocalyptic hellscape has no real need for homosexual computer programmers who can name all the presidents in order, as well as the actors who have played all eleven incarnations of Doctor Who.

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JayJonson October 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

Actually, I think you have it backward. In the Prop 8 trial, they were prevented from spouting hate. Without being able to do that, they had nothing except the insipid and contradictory testimony of David Blankenhorn, which was sliced and diced to our advantage by David Boies. Had they been able to wax on about what they really believe about gay people, they would have been happy to have the tapes released. But since you can't do that in a courtroom and you have to testify under oath and your "facts" are subject to validation and your "experts" to cross-examination, what they were left with was no case at all. That is what they don't want people–especially their supporters, who have been bilked out of millions of dollars to support this nonsense–to know.

JohnFromVegas October 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Religion has everything to do with it. A spark is harmless until it can burn. Religion provides the fuel and fans the flames.

Ned_Flaherty October 1, 2011 at 8:54 pm

There are 3 simple reasons that the anti-equality forces want their testimony kept secret.

(1) They don’t want anyone to see them make the arguments that lost them their case.

(2) Their witnesses actually admitted that they were wrong (e.g., no, same-sex marriages don’t hurt any other marriages; and yes, same-sex marriages do benefit society at large.)

(3) Each and every delay and appeal gives them time to seek more secret funding from Mormon rulers and Catholic popes.

The anti-equality defendants’ excuse that their witnesses are in danger is a joke, because those witnesses were already nationally famous for such testimony, and there’s no evidence of any harm ever coming to any of them for such testimony.

The anti-equality defendants’ claim that evidence and testimony are secret is wrong. As soon as this trial finished, the evidence became public record. No one controls it except the American taxpayers who own, operate, and pay for the justice system.

continued below . . .

Ned_Flaherty October 1, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Finally, as to the question about the source of the witnesses’ seemingly unlimited hatred, the answer has been murky — but at the same time obvious — for years.

Anti-LGBT sentiment is an industry.

It has revenue, expenses, profits, accountants, publicists, spokespersons, apologists, strategists, lawyers, lobbyists, international diplomats, Vatican ambassadors, and personnel who pay themselves very handsomely out of the “charitable” donation basket.

Also, the anti-LGBT industry attracts many men who are so frightened by their own homosexuality that they choose to hide it by burying it deep inside themselves, and then bury themselves inside of organizations which are dedicated to exterminating them. What better place to hide? Who would suspect?

This industry has 2 funding sources.

continued below . . .

Ned_Flaherty October 1, 2011 at 8:54 pm

It is funded, primarily, by Mormon leaders, Catholic popes, and money-laundering henchmen such as the euphemistically named “Knights of Columbus.”

It also is funded, secondarily, by ignorant, fearful, under-educated, over-evangelical citizens who will waste money to oppress LGBT people faster than they would spend it on any good cause known to mankind.

Starvation? Unavoidable.
Poverty? Unimportant.
Education? Unnecessary.
Health care? Unwanted.
Environmental harm? Unproven.

But denying equal civil rights to bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender humans? Worth every damned dollar!

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