Proposition 8 Hub




Narrative in New Jo Becker Book on Fight for Marriage Equality Called 'Absurd', 'Distorted', 'Deceptive'

Fts_becker

BY LISA KEEN

To say there’s been a flurry of discussion around the release of a new book Tuesday on the legal case that challenged California’s Proposition 8 would be an understatement. The book, Forcing the Spring, by New York Times writer Jo Becker, has been thoroughly pilloried by many plugged-in LGBT activists and journalists this week, both publicly and privately.

Griffin_olsonWhile a few have attempted to cut Becker some slack for documenting some behind-the-scenes litigation and political strategies, most fault her for an approach that seems hell-bent on making Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and conservative icon attorney Ted Olson into the white horse heroes of an upcoming Hollywood docu-drama about How the Marriage Equality Movement was Won.

Hollywood movies do have a tendency to skew the historical record for audiences that have not been paying attention to the real world events; and, if it does come to the silver screen, Forcing the Spring will carry an impressive credential --that it was based on a book by a “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” (even though she co-authored the entry that won).

The intense negative reaction from the LGBT community to Becker’s book indicates the prospect that the marriage equality movement’s real history will be lost is very troubling to many LGBT people who have watched and been part of that movement. It did not begin with the Griffin-Olson lawsuit in 2009, but with individual couples as early as the 1970s and with veteran civil rights legal activists beginning in Hawaii in the 1990s.

SullivanConservative gay commentator Andrew Sullivan led the assault on Becker’s book this week. In his April 16 blog entry for his The Dish, Sullivan berates Becker for suggesting Griffin is on par with legendary black civil rights activist Rosa Parks. He dismissed the book as riddled with “jaw-dropping distortion,” such as Becker ‘s claim that the marriage equality movement “for years had largely languished in obscurity.”

Sullivan’s assault was joined quickly by an impressive string of critiques: writer-activist Dan Savage (“a bulls--t ‘history’ of the movement for marriage equality”), former New York Times columnist Frank Rich (“For a journalist to claim that marriage equality revolution began in 2008 is as absurd as saying civil rights struggle began with Obama.”), and White House strategist Jim Messina.

Becker offered a defense against the criticism, explaining to politico.com that she hadn’t tried to write a definitive history of the marriage equality movement or the “gay rights” movement.

“Many people have contributed to the success the movement has experienced. I have the [utmost] respect for all the people who contributed to that success,” wrote Becker. “My book was not meant to be a beginning-to-end-history of the movement. It’s about a particular group of people at an extraordinary moment in time, and I hope that people will be moved by their stories.”

Unfortunately, her intro to the book and the slick public relations material sent out to promote that book proclaim otherwise.

On page 1 of the book, she writes that the marriage equality “revolution... begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin….” Her own summary of the book calls it is “the definitive account of the fight to win the rights of marriage and full citizenship for all….” And the Penguin Press release that accompanies review copies of the book calls it, “A deeply insightful and riveting account of a national civil rights struggle….” It quotes such celebrity legal commentators as Jeff Toobin as saying the book is “a superb, behind-the-scenes account of the legal battle to bring marriage equality to the nation.” The NAACP’s former president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, calls it “the definitive account of one of the great civil rights struggles of our times.”

This is the kind of hype that accompanies many books. It’s how publishers, in a very competitive environment, woo attention and favorable comments from reviewers, television talk shows, and other vehicles in a position to stoke book sales.

But critics of Forcing the Spring take issue with the book beyond the exaggeration of its marketing campaign.

D_blackForcing the Spring just doesn’t get it right,” writes BuzzFeed legal reporter Chris Geidner. He notes that Becker quotes Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black as being rebuffed by an audience of potential LGBT major donors to the litigation organized by Griffin’s American Foundation for Equal Rights. Becker also reports that the donor meeting’s organizer, Tim Gill, “denounced Black outright.” Geidner provides a link to a video of the closed-door meeting about which Becker was writing that shows Black’s speech was interrupted with applause five times, and won a standing ovation from at least a few in the audience. And Geidner says Gill’s alleged denouncement of Black was “more of a nuanced defense of ‘gradualism’” strategy for winning marriage equality.

Hollywood movies require conflict and struggle, and it may be that the book –whose inside cover touts it as a “gripping behind-the-scenes narrative with the lightning pace of the greatest legal thrillers”-- fell prey to the need to dramatize some hurdles for her heroes to overcome. A more journalistic approach might have conveyed the mixed reaction of Black’s audience and contrasted that with Black’s personal interpretation of how he was received.

It also would have been helpful for Becker to have talked in some depth with LGBT legal activists who have been working on the marriage equality movement for many years.

A number of LGBT legal activists have pointed out significant factual errors in Becker’s account as reported by the press thus far (none had received a copy of the book in advance) and expressed astonishment at her cavalier pronouncement that the marriage equality movement had been “languishing” in “obscurity” before Griffin and Olson came along.

Becker wrote that LGBT legal activists planned to win marriage equality in 30 states before filing a federal lawsuit.

“Lambda Legal did not have a strategy of getting to 30 states with marriage equality (or any particular number for that matter) before we would consider bringing a federal case,” said Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson.    

KaplanBecker’s portrayal of Roberta Kaplan (right), attorney to Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case that struck down the key provision of DOMA, as an “outsider” to the establishment legal activists was also widely disputed.

“Robbie was not an outsider,” said GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham. “She had worked for the ACLU for years, just as she did on Edie’s case. She also worked with Lambda on the New York marriage case, Hernandez.”

Becker was not hired by the movement to write its history. If she and her book promoters had just been a little more careful to pitch the book as a behind-the-scenes picture of the Proposition 8 litigation, the hue and cry might not be so harsh as it is.

The drama achieved by portraying the marriage equality movement pre-Griffin-Olson as “languishing” and “obscurity” extracts a price from Becker’s credentials. For LGBT people, the Baehr v. Miike trial in Honolulu and its subsequent legal victories --and even its political defeats, including passage by the U.S. Congress of the Defense of Marriage Act-- warrant neither of those dismissive assessments. There ensued an intense political war over marriage equality on state ballots around the country beginning in 1998, and, while supporters of same-sex marriage lost those battles, they came back with a steady, methodically planned and executed series of legal challenges that won civil unions in Vermont in the late 1990s and marriage equality in Massachusetts in 2003.

And just a month before Griffin and Olson first joined that battle with the filing of the Proposition 8 lawsuit, Lambda Legal won a unanimous victory in Iowa. The decades of cultural and legal combat opened up the country to a conversation that became both personal and national and moved public opinion. The Proposition 8 case was definitely part of that effort and, near the last paragraph of her book, Becker tempers her assessment of the Griffin-Olson effort as having brought the dream of equality “within reach.”

The Proposition 8 litigation enabled same-sex couples in California to be married, and other political activists and lawsuits have won marriage equality in more than a dozen other states. The legal team of Olson and David Boies is back at work with a case in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and other legal teams have similarly situated cases in other federal appeals courts. Each is hoping to win marriage equality for all states. Almost certainly, one of them will succeed. But the credit will belong to the many, not the few.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Rachel Maddow Looks at the Weird, Weird Week in Gay Rights: VIDEO

Cooper_maddow

Rachel Maddow takes a look at a bizarre backward/forward week in gay rights: Louisiana's insistence on retaining its anti-gay, unconstitutional sodomy law, contrasted with the Prop 8 defense attorney Charles Cooper's announcement that he is planning his gay daughter's wedding!

Truths Maddow:

"Sometimes the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But you know what? Sometimes the arc of the moral universe runs around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

2_maddow

Continue reading "Rachel Maddow Looks at the Weird, Weird Week in Gay Rights: VIDEO" »


Friday Speed Read: Oklahoma Marriage, Naya Taylor, Charles Cooper, Gordon Fox

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

LAMBDA SUES FOR FAILURE TO TREAT:

TaylorLambda Legal filed a lawsuit in federal court in Urbana, Illinois, yesterday against a medical doctor who refused to treat a patient because she is transgender. The lawsuit, Taylor v. Lystila, charges that primary care physician Aja Lystila violated the federal Affordable Care Act when she refused to provide hormone therapy to Naya Taylor. “When Naya protested to the clinic that she was being denied transition-related care by the clinic, she was told that the clinic did not ‘have to treat people like you’.” Lambda’s complaint notes that a spokesperson for the clinic told Naya that “because the clinic has Middle Eastern doctors and they have religious beliefs, they do not have to treat ‘people like you’.” The Affordable Care Act prohibits health care providers from discriminating against any individual based on sex.

WHOSE BURDEN IS IT?

OklahomaA judge on the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel drilled down hard Thursday, insisting an attorney defending Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex couples marrying explain how letting same-sex couples marry harms the government’s interest in creating stable families and cared for children. The case was Bishop v. Smith, the second of two cases to be argued this month before the federal appeals court in Denver. The attorney was James Campbell with the Alliance Defending Freedom. Campbell said it’s not the government’s burden to show what harm same-sex marriages could cause.

But the judge persisted, and Campbell said that, while “no one knows the long-term effects,” there are “real world consequences,” “and it is plaintiffs’ burden to show that none of those consequences will be adverse.” Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, notes that, “even under basic review, the government has to have a sufficient reason for discriminating.” “And numerous court rulings, including the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor -- as well as all three marriage trials, first in Hawaii, then in California, and a few weeks ago in Michigan -- have made clear there is none.”

CHARLES COOPER ‘LOOKING FORWARD’:

CooperThe lead attorney defending California’s Proposition 8 acknowledges in a just-released book about the trial that he learned during the case that his daughter is gay. In the book, Forcing the Spring, author Jo Becker said Cooper and his daughter Ashley Lininger discussed the issue of same-sex marriage at length. Lininger got engaged just three months before Cooper defended Proposition 8 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Cooper issued a statement to the Washington Post saying, “My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”

STILL NO WORD ON FOX INVESTIGATION:

FoxIt’s been almost a month since Rhode Island’s openly gay Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, suddenly resigned his leadership position following a raid by state and federal investigators on his home and State House office. Nobody’s talking, but the state Board of Elections told Associated Press that law enforcement staff have been in touch. And Fox’s executive assistant told a local news station that investigators came to her house looking for campaign documents prior to the March 21 raid. WPRI News said Wednesday that Fox, who retained his seat as a member of the House, has not attended any sessions since the raids.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Prop 8 Defense Attorney Reveals Daughter is Gay and Getting Married, Says Views are Evolving

Attorney Charles Cooper, who argued for 'Protect Marriage in the Proposition 8 case, says he learned during the trial that his daughter is gay and he's now helping plan her wedding, the AP reports:

CooperAttorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.

The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country's rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favour of allowing the unions.

Said Cooper:

"My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people's do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago," Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality."

The AP adds:

In a statement to The Associated Press, Cooper said his family "is typical of families all across America."
"My daughter Ashley's path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey's family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks," he said.


GayGamer Profiles 11 Tech And Entertainment Industry Prop 8 Donors

Brendan Eich Firefox

The recent controversy over Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who donated to California's Prop 8, has reopened some old discussions and prompted GayGamer.net's Jean-Luc "Neshoba" Pierite to do some digging into that donor list and see who else in the tech and entertainment industries contributed to the fight against marriage equality.

Aided by a database tool provided online by the LA Times, Pierite profiled almost a dozen individuals from various sectors of the entertainment and tech industry. Some of the offenders include:

  • Jeremy Gess, former Sr. Game Designer for Defiance at Trion Worlds, who donated $100
  • Hyrum V. Osmond, Character Animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation and worked on Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, who donated $2200
  • Aldric La'auli Porter, Assistant Director and Co-Producer for various films including The Hunger Games series and A Beautiful Mind, who donated $6000
  • Keneth Swanson, creator of JavaScript and engineer at Oracle/Sun Microsystems, who donated $8901 as well as $2000 for Family Research Council Action PAC

You can read the full list at GayGamer.net and use the LA Times database tool to search for other donors who wasted their money to fight against equality.


NOM Co-Founder: Boycott Mozilla Over Employee Intolerance to Prop-8-Supporting CEO Brendan Eich

Firefox_eich

Anti-gay activist Robert George, the Chairman of the 'United States Commission on International Religious Freedom' and the co-founder of the 'National Organization for Marriage' (NOM) is calling for a boycott of Mozilla in reaction to several employees calling on CEO Brendan Eich to step down for his donation to Proposition 8.

GeorgeWrote George in a post on Facebook:

The employees of Mozilla evidently think that people like me, and perhaps you, are not morally fit to be employees of their company. They are attempting to force out their CEO because he made a financial contribution in support of the ballot initiative to uphold marriage in California as the union of husband and wife. The CEO isn't out yet, but he has already caved to the pressure, apologizing for "causing pain" by supporting marriage. (See the story linked to below.) That won't be enough. His "sin" is unforgivable under the new morality. He'll soon be gone.

So I have just deleted Mozilla Firefox from my computer. If I'm not morally fit to be their employee, I'm not morally fit to use their products. If you are a faithful Catholic, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Mormon, Orthodox Jew, Muslim, or member of any other tradition that believes that marriage is fundamentally the institution that unites a man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children born of their union, providing those children with the inestimable blessing of being brought up in the committed bond of the man and woman whose union brought them into being, or even if you believe in marriage thus understood quite apart from membership in any community of faith, I would ask you to do the same. Why contribute to the prosperity of those who would exclude you? Cancel Firefox or any other Mozilla product. Sure, its competitors are probably "just as bad," but we have an opportunity here to send a message to all of them.

I have no problems with employers having morals clauses in people's contracts. But if someone believes in adultery, and a Christian or Jewish or Muslim school or other institution won't employ them because they commit adultery, I wouldn't expect them to contribute to the collection plate or pay a subscription at the church, synagogue, or mosque. So why should we buy and use Mozilla products?

If you agree with me, I would also ask you to copy this message and forward it to friends who share our pro-marriage views. Let everyone in your church or house of worship know what Mozilla thinks of us---and what we think of them.

Yesterday, the dating service OK Cupid blocked users of Mozilla's Firefox browser in protest of Eich's anti-gay views. As David Badash points out, now both gay and anti-gay activists are demanding a boycott of Firefox.

Eich's donation was revealed by a pair of gay married developers who announced they were planning to boycott Mozilla's platform in protest.


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged