Posted on Advocate.com May 13, 2010 By Neal Broverman
For a quick reminder of the importance of Elena Kagan — or any potential Supreme Court nominee — look no further than the high court’s recent decision to block cameras in the federal Proposition 8 trial, in which testimony was heard in January and closing arguments begin in June. Decided down ideological lines, that ruling kept the wrenching testimony of gay plaintiffs like Kristin Perry and Paul Katami from the public. Now the Courage Campaign, a California marriage equality group, is trying to maneuver around that decision by encouraging nationwide reenactments of the trial.
The group announced today in San Francisco that it’s launching “Testimony: Equality on Trial,” a campaign that not only encourages guerrilla-style readings but includes a website with filmed reenactments from movie and TV stars like Marisa Tomei, Josh Lucas, Patricia Clarkson, Cheyenne Jackson, and Michael Urie. The idea is that people will be drawn in by the celebrity videos and use them as examples for their own grassroots stagings, then film them and upload them to the site, YouTube-style.
“Homosexuality has never been on trial like [during the Prop. 8 trial],” says Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs. “We determined then that we had to do something to bring that testimony in the court to everyone in the country, and we wanted to figure out a way to do it in a way that was interactive.”
Scripts are available on the website, EqualityOnTrial.org, through PDF transcripts of the trial. [ETA If you haven't read some of these transcripts I HIGHLY recommend looking at them. The ignorance will blow your mind.] Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen (Milk, American Beauty) combed through all the trial transcripts and chose 20 moments ripe for reenactment. Cohen also helped corral some of the stars to get together for the filmings, which took place in New York and Los Angeles.
“The first four videos I knew I wanted to do were the opening statements of our four plaintiffs,” Cohen says. “When you hear each of their individual stories of what it was like for them growing up gay, coming out, being gay in the world, wanting to be married and not being able to, it’s so powerful. They were so eloquent but also so American, so universal.”
Cohen serves on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group organized by Chad Griffin that assembled the Prop. 8 legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies. After Jacobs and friend Cleve Jones came up with the idea for “Testimony,” they reached out to Cohen, who jumped at the chance to help.
“I thought it was such a shame America couldn’t hear this testimony,” Cohen says. “If America could be in this courtroom and hear this testimony, we would be changing hearts and minds and people could understand how cruel and insane it is to deny us our right to get married.”
At least six reenactments are expected to take place this Thursday all over this country — from San Francisco to Shaker Heights, Ohio — providing some of the first videos to be uploaded to EqualityOnTrial.org. Jacobs wants gay people to invite their supportive friends and family members to take part in future readings, and to do them in public places to maximize exposure.
“Imagine being at a farmers market on a Saturday or Sunday and suddenly people come up and say, ‘Hear ye, hear ye, this is a reenactment of the federal Prop. 8 trial,’” Jacobs says. “You know, that will get attention. People will watch, people will videotape that and put it on our site and share it."
But the readings are just the first stage of “Testimony.” Later the website will encourage anyone who’s been affected by antigay bias to share their story with the site. Jacobs wants anyone — a lesbian fired from her job, a gay couple denied a marriage license, a PFLAG mom — to film themselves and upload the video to the site so the real stories of gay people are seen by the American public.
“There is a long history of changing public opinion that also changes the way courts view the world,” Jacobs says. “That has over the history of the United States affected the outcome of major decisions.”
This topping post to you by Bertie Wilberforce Wooster and His Man, under "The Tie that Binds" Jeeves.
More about this at the Courage Campaign website http://prop8trialtracker.com/
More Youtube linkage here