Even though the public won't be able to watch the same-sex marriage trial on YouTube, a remarkable amount of information is being filtered out of the courtroom by both sides of the debate, through Twitter and blogging, as Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker points out.
Photo by Dave Schumaker
The Alliance Defense Fund, which supports Proposition 8, has been ripping through Twitter with dozens of posts a day. Their most recent missive concerned historian George Chauncey, who has been testifying in the case, Perry vs. Schwarzenegger: "Chauncey reluctantly agrees, nothing wrong with considering moral values when voting, pivots to false, tiresome race segregation analogy."
And more: "Chauncey obvious discomfort, Prop8 attorney reads his own words back to him that conflict with dark picture he painted yesterday"Or: "Chauncey struggles to square many statements praising growing acceptance, Day2 testimony was how bad things are for same-sex couples"
Today, the ADF has turned its attention on Twitter itself. The group is complaining that its Tweets are being blocked from the site's search engine. "We can still send updates however Twitter has blocked our updates from showing up in search. They only show up if someone retweet's them." No word from Twitter yet.
Over at the Courage Campaign, which supports same-sex marriages, bloggers are churning out a huge amount of copy from inside the courtroom. The Prop. 8 Trial Tracker features a rotating team of at least five people, including Paul Hogarth, who yesterday posted eight different liveblog posts along with legal analysis.
The blog obviously allows a more lengthy discussion of what's going on, essentially highlighting the high-low meme of the Internet: You get quick hits and sometimes meaningless Twitter feeds (from both sides) followed by extremely detailed accounts. There's not much in the middle.
Consider Hogarth's analysis based on a questions during cross-examination by Prop. 8 defenders:
Thompson: 'Spring 2004 was a decisive turning point in public opinion on gay marriage, correct? It’s hard to think of any group whose opinion has changed more quickly, correct?'
Based on the line of questioning, they’re clearly trying to show how “radical” treating same-sex couples equally — that it’s a recent phenomenon. It’s a bit surreal listening to it, because anyone must ask — why is quick change towards acceptance bad thing? But the courts are an inherently conservative institution (conservative with a small “c.”) You don’t win a case in court by arguing innovative ideas; you argue based upon precedent, so that Judges can feel safe knowing that what they’re doing is consistent. Interestingly, however, two of the most noteworthy and landmark Court rulings — Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade — read very differently from most cases, because they rely a lot less on precedent than upon sociological data.
In the New Yorker today, Talbot the offers her own analysis of the Tweeting and blogging at Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, and the Chauncey testimony this week:
The truth is this is a tough balancing act: Chauncey has to support the argument that gays are politically weak and that public opinion is not in favor of marriage—comparative political powerlessness is one of the criteria that qualifies a group as a “suspect class” and triggers strict scrutiny of laws singling them out. But at the same time, he must at least acknowledge some of the obvious evidence to the contrary. (Today, he was asked if it was true that Nancy Pelosi was an ally for gay Americans.)
Then again, it puts the pro-Prop lawyers in a peculiar position, too: they’ve got to say, in this context, that public opinion is swinging towards acceptance of gay rights, while making the larger point, over the course of the trial, that were the court to declare bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, it would be stepping way out ahead of public opinion.
For now, words are going to have to suffice for monitoring the trial. The U.S. Supreme Court this week blocked any taping for YouTube, a decision that Emily Bazelon at Slate calls awful and heavy-handed.