Firedoglake liveblogger Teddy Partridge interview on The Nicole Sandler Show, January 13, 2010
NS – This week there’s been a lot going on, but one of the stories that I have not seen a lot of coverage on is the Prop 8 trial that’s happening out in California. I think the reason is, because the Supreme Court ruled that cameras would not be allowed to film the trial. And without the pictures, cable news and tv news just doesn’t want to cover it for whatever reason. It started Monday, a federal court in San Francisco is reviewing the decision to uphold Proposition 8. But there is a place where you can get a really good picture of what’s going on, and that’s at shadowproof.wpengine.com where Teddy Partridge is liveblogging the entire trial. Today wraps up the third day of testimony, and Teddy Partridge joins us live right now on Air America radio. Teddy, thanks for calling in tonight.
TP – Hi Nicole, thanks for having me here tonight.
NS – Oh, it’s my pleasure.
TP – How are you?
NS – I’m great…were you like a court reporter in a previous life or something?
TP – No, I’m not even the greatest typist, I never not learned to touch type
NS – Oh boy
TP – It’s really an amazing process, liveblogging, you kind of let it come in your ears and out your fingers, and try to keep up. And when I can’t keep up with what people are saying, I try to at least get the gist down. And, as our readers at Firedoglake know, sometimes I say, well I missed that part, I’m gonna go on.
NS – Uh huh
TP – We started liveblogging at the Scooter Libby trial – Jeralyn Merritt, Marcy Wheeler, Christy [Hardin Smith], Pach, and Jane Hamsher were all livebloggers there. They did a really great job establishing Firedoglake as the place to come for liveblogging. We did a lot of liveblogging during the primary wars, we liveblogged the debates. So when this trial came up and we realized that there might not actually be any broadcast or any youtube available, Jane and I talked last week and decided, well, somebody needs to go to the court and figure out how to get in there. There’s an overflow courtroom, and so we can have laptops in there. I got in the front row the first day and sort of set up a little nest with a mifi. They don’t even have wifi in the courtroom.
NS – Wow.
TP – The court personnel have been really helpful and really friendly, just getting us set up, getting us into the room early, so we can get our power strip plugged in and everything. It’s hard though listening to the lawyers question, first of all, the named plaintiffs, the two couples who are actually challenging Prop 8, describe some of their experiences: when you go to check into a hotel, when you go to your kids’ soccer game, when you go to pick up your kids after school. All of those things that same sex couples go thru, and to hear them describe those things on the stand, where it’s so easy for heterosexual married couples to say, Oh that’s my wife, that’s my husband.
NS – Right
TP – And one of the things that the two couples, one lesbian couple Chris and Sandy, and one gay male couple Jeff and Rick, describe was, how we don’t have access even to the language of established couplehood in America. We don’t get to use those words to describe who these really incredibly important people are in our lives. They’re not our roommates, they’re not our boyfriends. When a married person, for instance, a married heterosexual person, talks about his or her lover, they’re not talking about the person on their marriage license
NS – No! They’re talking about an extramarital affair, right. And when they talk about their partner, they’re talking about usually somebody in business with them, right?
TP – Yes, exactly. It used to be when you said "my partner" people would say "oh, what, are you an attorney? Are you a contractor? What kind of partner?" It’s like – my life partner. Just that very simple lack of access to the language of American relationshiphood was something really moving when the plaintiffs described it in the courtroom. They made it…you go to a hotel, I’ve been to hotels for conferences, even in Chicago when Patrick and I went to the Netroots Nation conference and I went up to the front desk to check in the two of us. This middle aged male midwestern desk clerk looked at me kind of askance and said "Oh, well…" and raised an eyebrow. "There must be some mistake, I have a king sized bed here…?" And I kind of looked at Patrick and I looked back at him and I said "Yeah, that’s right" [laughing] You know, that was 2007.
NS – Wow.
TP – I mean, you just don’t expect that. It would be so easy to just say, yeah, this is my husband.
NS – Right
TP – This is not my boy toy, this is not my "partner", you don’t have any right to access the intimacy of our relationship. All you need to know is one word – and that one word, spouse, whether it’s husband or wife or spouse, is allowed to heterosexual married couples. That was a very moving part and that was the hardest part for me to liveblog, because I had to keep my emotions out of it and I had to get the words down. There were a couple times I had to type "I’m choking up here, I’m missing some of this
NS – Right, I saw that, I saw a lot of that came in the very first day. And it is riveting. I mean what…just…you know, the whole thought that this should have been televised, this is so disturbing. Do you know why they ruled against the cameras, is it just because it’s a federal court and they don’t allow cameras in federal court?
TP – Well, they have a pilot project for cameras in federal courts. There have been cameras in federal courts for a long time. And it’s not that they don’t allow cameras in federal court. Actually I believe, I’m not an attorney, but I believe they don’t allow broadcast of those images outside the courtroom. In cases of great interest, for instance, with the Libby Trial, which was what, four year ago now, there were cameras in that courtroom. There was a huge media room. There was also a public overflow courtroom, a big courtroom that just had screens up in the front, where people could work and watch, and in addition, the record gets preserved. So it isn’t really a question of not having the technology….
NS – Oh no, of course they have the technology, it’s just they won’t allow the proceedings to be broadcast. And in this case, specifically, it is such a shame because so much of middle America, who may be, who have never heard a gay couple, a lesbian couple, talking about their feelings, this might open a lot of eyes, this might make…it would educate people, wait a minute these are human beings, they should have the right to what I have the right to. And see how wrong the bigotry is.
TP – Well and just to make it clear, it isn’t the plaintiffs who asked that the proceedings not be televised.
NS – Of course not.
TP – It’s the defense, the people who are called the defendant-intervenors, the protectmarriage dotcom people.
NS – They asked that it not be televised?
TP – Yes, they made the request that it not be televised, and Judge Vaughn Walker, the trial judge, ruled it would be simulcast to 7 or 8 courthouses all around the country primarily because the judges and attorneys in those areas wanted to see the court proceedings, and then they would also capture it and put it up perhaps, I think, on youtube in segments of a certain length, so that eventually we could all see it, and the networks would have access to that, and cable would have access to that, and people could talk about it.
NS – Right.
TP – But the protectmarriage dotcom people, the people who won the Prop 8 on the ballot, they said they did not want it televised, because their witnesses and the groups that they represent, feared retaliation because of the violence and harassment that have been experienced in California during Prop 8 by people who supported Prop 8 – which of course wasn’t the case at all – in point of fact it was the opponents of Prop 8, it was the gay and lesbian community and their allies, who experienced the harassment and the anti-gay violence. I don’t know who it came from, I don’t know that any of those were ever really charged.
NS – Mm hm
TP – But there were initially some boycotts that were organized certain businesses I think, and that has put the fear into these people about testifying about their hateful and bigoted views.
NS – Wow. It is a shame. Because as I’m reading your liveblogging, we’re speaking with Teddy Partridge, who is liveblogging the Prop 8 trial in California at Firedoglake.com and you know, for someone who doesn’t touch type, you’re doing a pretty damn good job. And reading the testimony, all I could think was, the American people should be able to see this. Let’s back up a little bit and talk about…we all know Prop 8. Prop 8 passed on November 4, which outlawed California gay marriages, which had been taking place for how long?
TP – People started getting married in June, Nicole, June 2008, the court ruled in May 2008, that marriage would be permitted between same sex couples in California, that it was a fundamental, basic civil right, and that Proposition 22, which was passed in 2000 I believe, was in fact unconstitutional, limiting marriage to one man and one woman. And so people began getting married in June. Now, to back up, people had gotten married in San Francisco in February 2004, and so people probably remember a lot of those images in the San Francisco City Hall, but those marriages were all then invalidated by the Supreme Court.
NS – Right. And in fact, the lesbian couple, who are one of the plaintiffs, or two of the plaintiffs, actually had that happen to them.
TP – Yes, they were married at City Hall, and then they went ahead with their privately planned wedding ceremony as well, which happened on August 1, 2004. Then two weeks after this joyful celebration that they talked about, where they had a hundred plus guests in their back yard, all their families, their four children, their boys, their blended family, two weeks after that wonderful ceremony where they affirmed the marriage that had been performed at San Francisco City Hall back in the winter, they got a letter from City Hall saying "Your marriage has been invalidated. We’re very sorry to tell you that the Supreme Court of California has ruled that this is not a legal marriage. What would you like us to do with your marriage fee?"
NS – Yeah, do you want a refund or do you want us to donate it to charity? Oh my God.
TP – Exactly. And I was in a similar circumstance. We, my partner, my boyfriend, my lover, my live-in man and I got engaged February 13, 2004, Friday the 13th, and we thought, well we’ll get married someday, and then it went away. And so we didn’t get the chance to get married in Gavin Newsom’s special window. And then when Prop 8, I mean, before Prop 8 passed but after the Supreme Court ruling that same sex marriage would be legal and there would be marriage equality in California, we talked about it. We talked about getting married knowing that on Election Day in November of that same year, people were going to be able to get to vote. And then we did not know whether or not the court would take those marriages performed in the window away, just as the court had done previously to the San Francisco marriages. So we decided, just as Chris and Sandy and the gay male coupls have all decided, they decided like we did, not to get married in that window, because we didn’t again want to subject our marriage to the capricious state of California that was saying "Oh you can get married, oh you can’t get married. Yes, you can get married"
NS – Mm hm
TS – So I really emphathized with a lot of their discussions about how, yes, marriage was really important, but we don’t want to go ahead with it because it doesn’t sound like the majority community is really ready to say that this gets to be permanent.
NS – Right. Oh boy. Alright, Teddy Partridge is with us, he is liveblogging the Prop 8 Trial from California. Today was Day 3. It’s all up there at shadowproof.wpengine.com and it’s just fascinating reading. When you do read it you’re gonna say, why isn’t this on tv? Teddy if you can hold on, we need to take a break. I want to find out about the two attorneys, who were adversaries in the Bush-Gore debacle in 2000 who teamed up to help defeat California’s ban on same sex marriages. We’ll be right back. [break/music/backstage talk]
NS – Alright. We’re back with Teddy Partridge who is liveblogging the Prop 8 Trial in CA for shadowproof.wpengine.com and he’s doing an amazing job. Teddy I wanted to ask about attorneys for the defense
TP – The plaintiff
NS – The plaintiff. Are David Boies and Ted Olson, who were against each other in Bush v. Gore in 2000, and they’ve teamed up to defeat California’s ban on same sex marriages. How is their chemistry? How are they working together, are they doing a good job?
TP – I think they’re doing a great job. I was amazed when I first heard about this case, that first of all there was going to be a federal case at all, you could take a state proposition like this to federal court under the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause. But when I heard it was David Boies, I thought, yeah he’s a good guy, I mean, you know, he almost helped Al Gore be president.
NS – Right
TP – And then I heard that his partner in that was Ted Olson. And I thought, there must be some other lawyer named Ted Olson. [laughing]
NS – Right
TP – Because surely the Ted Olson that got Bush…I just could not believe it that they were teaming up. But really it makes it very effective. Ted Olson has written a couple of articles recently about the conservative case for gay marriage. And one point that’s been made in his opening arguments and also in some of the discussion with expert witnesses has been, within the gay community marriage is the conservative argument. There was always a part of the LGBT community that felt that marriage was sort of a heterosexual, privileged, anti-feminist kind of structure. And so marriage is a very conservative thing in society, and to want marriage as gay people is sort of a conservative argument. And he’s been making that…. He did the opening arguments, and one thing that was fun to watch was, even though he has… they both have had tremendous experience at the Supreme Court, I believe that Ted Olson has won 48 out of his 56 cases at the Supreme Court…
NS – Wow
TP – And this case is clearly designed to go there.
NS – So that’s where they’re expecting it to lead.
TP – I think whoever loses here will take it to the full Ninth Circuit Court. And then whoever loses there will take it to the Supreme Court.
NS – …take it to the Supreme Court.
TP – I mean there’s just no question it’s to get in front of the Supreme Court. In Supreme Court arguments when the lawyers get up to talk, they get interruped almost immediately, they get peppered with questions by the justices. After about two and a half minutes in Ted Olson’s opening statement on Monday morning, Judge Vaughn Walker started asking questions.
NS – Right
TP – Ted Olson was really kind of taken aback, I think he sort of thought he could do his trial opening without any sort of questions.
NS – Right. I gotcha. Teddy, I’m sorry to interrupt you but we’ve only got like thirty seconds left. Do you know how long it’s supposed to go, any idea how long it will last?
TP – We have two days the rest of this week, then the trial will go Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday of next week. Luckily I’ve got help, Marcy Wheeler’s gonna come up today. Then some other people are coming next week. And then the following week Judge Walker’s reserved time Monday and Tuesday.
NS – Ok well I hope…
TP – It should be a couple weeks.
NS – Cool. I hope we can check back in with you, you’re doing an amazing job, and I thank y0u so much for joining us tonight. Teddy Partridge, find him at Firedoglake.com and read up on the Prop 8 Trial. That’s it for us, talk to you tomorrow. Bye.