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Liveblogging the Prop 8 Trial: Day Five Friday PM Two (21)

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Helen Zia

Defense: Relevance very unclear, she’s not a plaintiff, she’s not an expert, she’s not a reliable sample, her testimony has no probative value. Use of documents used with Dr. Chauncey. None of that was disclosed. No idea what relevance is.

Danny Chu, SF City Attys: Illustrative of expert testimony. Alleges harm, showing how domestic partnerships are different. WRT description of testimony wrt messaging. Examples of messages she saw during Prop 8. Clearly covered by description of testimony we gave to defendant intervenors.

Defense: Needlessly cumulative. We’ve had four experts testifying. For one person taken, in reality, off the street.

Danny Chu: She has actually gotten marriage. She’s representative of what they want. This bookends testimony of plaintiffs who say they want to get married.

Defense: That kind of testimony should be expert. They should submit study with appropriate sample size. it’s not scientific.

Walker: Admitted.

Danny Chu: If I could add one thing.

Walker: Admitted. One of advantages of bench trial is that evidence can be presented and weight. That is something that can be considered after court has heard and weighed evidence. Witness is going to speak to issues that are important to ultimate resolution of case. I will permit witness to testify and I will make final determination of how much weight to give that testimony.

Chu: How old, how long in CA.

Zia: [Fifty something–didn’t hear it] Five siblings. Four are married. High school at JFK HS in NJ, college at Princeton, BA. Have honorary JD from city U of NY. I’m a writer. Written two books, edite da number. Asian-American dreams, emergence of American people. Contemporary history of Asian Americans over last 40 years. Second was My Country Versus Me, Chinese American scientist, Wen Ho Lee, falsely accused of being spy, co-authored. Last publication Ms. Magazine, Exec editor.I am a lesbian. I thnk I’ve been a lesbian all my life. Coming out is a process. Lot of ways to describe what it is. First became aware when I was in college, when I first learned the word lesbian. There were a lot of experiences when I was younger, starting when I was 6 or 7, I look back now and realize they were clear signs what team I was on. When I was about 6 ot 7 or 8. Just a school kid. Neighbor lady, asked kids, so do you want to get married when you grow up? In the expectation, that I would say yes. I immediately said no. She was really surprised I was so emphatic. It was very clear to me even at that time, that I could not imagine getting married to a man.

Chu: You were first aware you might be lesbian in college. When did you come out.

Zia: I had my first relationship with a woman in mid 1980s, in my 30s.

Chu: How much after college.

Zia: 12 years after college.

Chu: Why did it take so long?

Zia: Many social pressures to steer me away from person I really was.

Chu: Give me an example.

Zia; Lesbian trial. AFter I left college I for a time attended medical school, realized I wanted to spend more time community organizing, like our President. was involved in neighborhood in Boston. Work around ending discrimination in construction trades, didn’t hire people of color or women at  all, very restrictive very high paying jobs. Involved in Asian Community org and African American community org. Called me to a meeting. They were sitting in semi-circle. Told me to sit here. “We’ve noticed you seem to be working with a lot of women, and a lot of lesbians, in our communities of color, we don’t have homosexuals in our community. It would be really terrible to have lesbian working with us, bc homosexuality is symptom of white petty bourgeois decadance. We wouldn’t want to hav eyou with us, working with us on these causes.”  Leader of African American group said much the same. Then said, “So Helen, are you a lesbian?” I had friends who were lesbians. What would make me a lesbian. I knew I had had lesbian thoughts. Attractions. I didn’t have a girl friend, Didn’t have a membership card, a toaster overn that said welcome to lesbian-hood. They stared at me and said, Helen are you a lesbian. I had stepped into closet and slammed the door shut.

Chu: Anything you did in response?

Zia: Got message very clearly that having friends that were lesbians was not acceptable. I stopped seeing my friends, cut off my ties with my dear friends in woman’s movement in Boston. I had been involved in leadership capacity.

Chu: Diaries. Anything to those diaries?

Zia: Avid journal keeper from time I was quite young. After lesbian trial, I had written down thoughts that were lesbian. So shortly after this trial I was going to move to Detroit, what do I do with these diaries. Became so concerned with these diaries. There are my diaries that say I might be a lesbian. I took my diaries and I went out to a field and I lit them up and I burned my diaries.

Chu: Discrimination related to work?

Zia: On a few occasions. Invited to give speech to Notre Dame U, early 1990s. Lot of anti-gay campaigns going on. Person who had invite dme aware that I was a lesbian. Asked me, btw, are you going to say anything about being a lesbian. I said, not sure, I might. In that case, I don’t think you should come, rescinded the invitation.

Chu: Any discrimination from family members?

Zia: When I came out to, when I was delivering lecture in NY area, very interested in books I had written, came to my lecture, talked about being lesbian, people of color, that I was a lesbian. Very small part of lecture. He cut off all ties. Made attempts to contact him. Has never returned single call since then.

Chu: Physically threatened.

Zia: Constantly aware that my sexual orientation could provoke violence. As I walk though life, especially when I am with my wife, I feel very aware of whether we express affection publicly. Whether we hold hands in public. My spouse is very affectionate. Many times, like any other committed couple, might be time. Leah is very inclined to do that. I do, I push her away. I say we have to be careful. I feel bad about that. I feel very conscious that there are people who hate us just for who we are.

Chu: Do you remember Prop 8? Did you encounter any discrimination?

Zia; Campaign that would degrade and devalue marriage I have. Most important person in my life. See the ads that said things about that. To experience people coming up to me, and making slurs, calling me names, telling me I’m an abomination, that my marriage to Leah and other people like us, people have said when we were working on campaign. When we would be out on streets, handing out fliers. People would come up and say, “you fucking dyke, you’re goin gto die and burn in hell. You’re an abomination, to see the kinds of things put out there about us.” My marriage is going to cause people to have sex with animals. That my marraige is going to cause them to marry other people so there will be more polygamy is going to cause great harm to their children, cause molestation of children. That my marriage to Leah cause end of human race. Dozens of people would laugh or say soemthing with the most derisive. They’d say “no more people, no more human race.” To me these were all highly discriminator. They were saying we were so offensive, saying we were not worthy of being human beings. TO just be married to each other that we would cause the end of the human race. If we were to cause the end of the human race, you’re going to want to stamp them out. It was a highly painful and discriminatory and hurtful message.

Chu directs her to enter binder.


Chu: disclosed on Wednesday.

Walker: Okay.

Chu: Recognize page?

Zia: I saw this page during the yes on 8 campaign.

[Objection: I thinkabout whether it was part of campaign]

Chu: Can you read it.

Zia; Studies show that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia.

Chu: You described messages that you found hurtful.

Zia: This is an example.


Defense: There’s no foundation. It’s not an official campaign. It’s highly prejudicial.

Walker: You made a 403 objection. I’ll reserve until you cross.

Chu: What’s your wife’s name?

Zia: Leah.

Chu: had you been married before? How you feel?

Zia: Soul mate in life, I love her, She’s the person I want to spend rest of life with. Most important person.

Chu: When did you first meet Leah.

Zia: 1993 [wrong date]. Both involved in civil rights campaign revolved around hate crime against Chinese American. Leah on organizing campaign here in SF. Didn’t start dating until 1992. I was in NY. I moved out here. I had been born and raised in NJ. I was well entrenched in journalism career, I was at Ms. I was Exec, I was in succession to be editor in chief. Job I had was the job I always wanted. When I met Leah, I knew person I wanted to be with, so no real decision to make, left NY, East Coast, the job I had always wanted.

Chu: Ever registered as domestic partners?

Zia: First in SF, 1993. Shortly after I moved here to be with Leah.

Chu: Process?

Zia: Anti-climatic, went to window, all purpose postal window. I think they issue dog licenses, as well as domestic partner licenses. I left leaving a little like, so this was domestic partnerships. Kind of certificate, the kind a kid gets for perfect attendance. It didn’t feel like much of all. We didn’t send out notices or invitations.

Chu: Did you ever register with CA.

Zia: When state partnerships became available, 2003, we filed for domestic partnership. There was no dog license window, downloaded form, got it notarized, mailed it in. Got another form. Back in mail. It said you’re now domestic partners. Not an occasion to write home about.

Chu: When did you first get married. 2004, President’s Valentine’s Day weekend. When marriages becme available. At first we weren’t sure what we were reading was real. We talked about it. You would want family around. Your dad is in Honolulu. Pretty elderly. All those people have to stand for 8 hours. My mother said, you and Leah can get married. Why don’t you and she get married. THen there was just the logistical question. Everything was happening so quickly, how would we manage this. We had friends, who were in assessors office, who were in charge of getting process done. They were looking for volunteers. Asked us if we coul dvolunteers. Leah and I both know how to type and file. So we said sure, we’ll come in and help. President’s day. Office was kept open through volunteers. Typed and filed for about 8 hours. Line all the way around the block. I was typing people’s applications as they were coming in. They had closed the line. I looked at Leah and said, should I type out an application for us, would you marry me. Lead said I can’t talk now I’m busy.

Walker: Very responsible of her.

Zia; While she was still processing forms for others. I filled out form. I took it to her and said here’s the marriage licence, would you marry me? We were probably one of hte last couples of the day after the others were done. We had justice of peace ceremony.

Chu: Did you celebrate?

Zia: Then we started to talk about how to celebrate. A big wedding banquet. Wedding invitations. All the envelopes. discussions, what music, picked date, august 20, sent out invitations. Did all the kinds of things to prepare.

Chu: How many people attended.

Zia: 150 attended. Our families came from all over the US. Leah came Hawaii, I grew up on East Coast. Had people coming from East Coast to HI. Our wedding celebration. Planned also to have affirmation ceremony. Leah’s dad was 86 years old, was retired judge. Brought his judge’s robes, was going to officiate.

Chu: Do you recongnize picture?

Zia: Picture of one of our family groupings.

Walker: Admitted.

Chu: Did you marriage get invalidated.

Zia: About a week before our wedding reception. Leah and I were devastated. We grieved. Our marriage that brought us so much job was suddenly rendered invalid. Felt that it wasn’t just marriage invalidated, felt we were invalidated.

Chu: Did you get married again?

Zia: June 2008, as soon as that became available.

Chu: How does getting married change things.

Zia: In most immediate sense, it was in how our families related to us. When we first got married. We have a niece, 2 years old, only known us Auntie Helen and Auntie Leah. WHen she saw Leah and me, she gave us a big hug, said, Auntie Leah, now you’re really my auntie. I thought, well, you’ve always known her as your auntie. Somehow it made a difference. It made a difference to our parents. When you say you’re a domestic partner. When people say “who’s this person?” I can’t count the number of times who said “Partner in what business.” We’d say “partners in life.” Often it was bewilderment. What business is life, od yo umean life insurance. It’s a matter of how our families relate to people. For me to show up at every event. People ask who’s she. For her 90-something auntie to say, here’s Leah’s friend. She must be a really good friend, suddently there were able to say, Helen is my daughter in law. My mother is an immigrant from China. She dosent’ get waht partner is. I would be around her, I could hear them say, sometimes in Chinese, sometimes in English, that’s Helen’s friend. Then it changed, she would say, this is my daughter-in-law. Whether they got it or not, you don’t insult someone’s wife, you don’t insult someone’s mother. We’re not partners in life or in some business. It changed things on a huge level. Marriage in how it affected our families. Our families related to each other differently. Marraige is joining of two families. My family and Leah’s family now relate to each otheer differently. My brother lived about 5 minutes away from Leah’s father when he was still alive, in those 15 years, they didn’t make an effort. After we were married, Leah’s father would stop by, drop things off. My brother is quite active in HI, Leah’s brother’s wife, my sister in law. Has a sister who runs in same circles. He will now say she’s my in-law.

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