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Prop 8 on Trial
prop 8 on trial
January 26, 2010

By Amanda Beck

The Perry v. Schwarzenegger defense opened its case Monday with testimony from Claremont McKenna College Associate Professor Kenneth Miller, who contended that gay and lesbian Californians hold significant political power that belies their single-digit percentage of the population.

Miller is an attorney educated at Harvard Law School and now a specialist in the history of California and U.S. politics.  He focuses on the power of political groups, especially in direct elections, and summoned a number of rubrics to demonstrate the sway that California’s gay lobby holds.

First, he pointed to the fact that gay marriage proponents raised $43 million for the “No on 8” campaign, an amount that Miller said was “exceptionally rare” given that the election involved a social issue without corporate interests or backing.   Gay marriage opponents raised $40 million for the election.

Second, Miller pointed to a laundry list of political allies sympathetic to gay rights causes.  Miller said this list could include something as broad as the Democratic Party and reminded the court that nearly 61 percent of California’s voters supported Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.  This strong showing created the largest California margin in any presidential election since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  “This is a blue state.  That’s the way I would put it,” Miller said.

Miller also named specific political officials who support gay rights, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposed Proposition 8; the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, who is a lesbian; and Attorney General Jerry Brown, who refused to defend Proposition 8 in court.

Miller said other political allies include:

  1. Corporations:  For example, officials from Silicon Valley giants including Google, Yahoo, and Cisco opposed Proposition 8 in a full-page advertisement run in the San Jose Mercury News.
  2. Newspapers:  Miller said 21 of the 23 largest California newspapers wrote editorials opposing Proposition 8, while the other two papers did not take a stand.
  3. Celebrities:  The entertainment industry had been largely supportive of the gay rights movement, and celebrities garner media attention for pet causes, Miller said.  He mentioned several Hollywood directors who support allowing same-sex couples to marry.  The list included Rob Reiner, a regular attendee at the Proposition 8 court proceedings and the director of popular films including “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally…”
  4. Faith-based organizations:  Miller said these groups are often organized and able to motivate volunteers to work on political campaigns.  Though the U.S. religious community is often associated with opposition to same-sex marriage, Miller said the California Council of Churches is one coalition of progressive congregations that supports federal rights for same-sex couples, among other social causes.  Members include the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church.

Miller closed his direct testimony by enumerating various legislative and political victories achieved by the gay rights movement.  These include enacting laws that punish hate crimes and ban discrimination in employment, housing, public education, and adoption.

For Prop 8 on Trial’s account of Miller’s cross-examination, please click here.

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