Monday, January 25, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Coverage: A Bad Case of PMS

Guest blogger Davina Kotulski of reports on the Prop 8 trial. This will be Davina's last guest post on the trial. She has done a great job in covering the plaintiff's arguments and witness testimonies. Thank you, Davina!

I want to apologize for Friday’s last blog. To be honest, I had horrible PMS, protect-marriage syndrome. Protect Marriage Syndrome, or PMS, comes on when you have to sit for hours on end and listen to Yale and Cambridge educated experts testify that you are not insane, a child-molester, a degenerate, or an obsessive compulsive gender confused threat to civilization which I guess is supposed to make you feel good.

Only, then it is followed up with having to listen to another lawyer attempt to deconstruct that witness’s testimony to the most absurd, out of context, details, for hours and hours and hours with the purpose of denying your basic dignity, worth as a human being and your constitutional rights.

I had one hell of a case of bad PMS on Friday.


In her testimony on January 15th, Helen Zia talked about being on trial at her work for being gay and how that depleted her, even caused her to burn her journal, which is like losing a limb to a writer.

All LGBT people are on trial under Prop 8. Even though marriage equality supporters have brought forward this constitutional challenge to denying our right to marry, like Zia, we are on trial. We are on trial as parents, as citizens, as worthy human beings. There is nothing right about this.

LGBT people are equal. We are as whole, perfect, and complete as our straight brothers and sisters. We too have hearts that beat and love. When we fall in love it is our hearts first that seek connection with our beloveds. It’s not about plumbing. Dr. Sylvia Rhue with the National Black Justice Coalition says, “When the hearts fit the parts fit.”

The attorney asked Helen Zia, “How do you feel about Lia?”

Zia replied, “ She’s my soul mate. I love her, she’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life, the most important person to me in the world.”

Most husbands and wives, be they straight or gay, know exactly what Zia is talking about. That’s why we choose to marry, because we want to do everything we can to protect, honor, and cherish our beloved.

Zia spoke of her and Lia, getting their domestic partnership licenses. “They issues dog licenses at the same counter,” she said and then discussed getting married in San Francisco in 2004 when it was legal for a little over a month. She spoke of the wedding reception she and Lia had planned with their families that would be attended by her mother, siblings, and some of her sibling’s children.

“My marriage was invalidated a week before our wedding reception.” The attorney asks her, “How did that make you feel?”

Anyone with a heart can guess how it made her feel.

Zia said she felt “devastated, sad, grieved, horrible, our marriage had made us so happy, brought us so much joy, and was suddenly invalidated.” But what struck an even deeper chord for Zia was that she and Lia felt that their relationship was invalidated “and as human beings we were invalidated.”


Zia, and many of the other 4,000 couples like my wife, Molly and I, who were married in 2004 and later judicially invalidated, struggled to get through that dark time until we were able to marry again in 2008.

“Getting married has presented numerous tangible and intangible benefits.” Zia said, “After marriage, my niece came up and said to Lia. “Auntie Lia, now you are really my auntie.”

Marriage has also made a difference to how they relate to people. “People wondered ‘who is this person who is hanging on to you extra close?’

‘This is my partner.’

‘Partner, partner in what business?’

We’d say, ‘we are partners in life.’ And get used to seeing this look on their face, ‘What does life mean? Do you mean life insurance?’”

Marriage also made a difference Lia’s parents and family. “It’s a matter of how our families relate to people,” Zia said. “We show up to every family event and they ask ‘who is that?’ ‘This is Helen’s friend.’ They never got partner, now with marriage, they are able to say ‘Helen is my daughter-in-law.’

For Helen’s mother too, marriage has given her a language to explain her relationship to Lia. “My mother would struggle to say this is Helen’s friend and now she would say ‘this is my daughter-in-law.’ That’s it. end of story. We are not partners in life or business. We are spouses. This is my wife.”


“Marriage is not just about us.” Zia testified. “Our families related to each other differently. Marriage is the joining of two families. My family and Lia’s family relate to each other differently. My brother lived near my father-in-law for years. After we were married, Lia’s father stopped by my brother’s house and dropped things off. When he introduced his children he said ‘These are my daughters and this is my favorite daughter-in-law.’”

Zia spoke of how both she and her wife Lia, shared “the important events in life,” together, births and deaths of family members. “When Lia’s father died, that’s when family comes together.” She spoke of how having marriage secured her place in the family. She was a part of the memorial and listed in the obituary. “Marriage defines who family is, who is in the circle.”

While Zia spoke, the feeling tone in the overflow room was one of soft, gentleness. It was like being in a movie theatre where people are watching a romantic comedy. There were aahhs, warm laughter, and even a few tears as Zia recounted her relationship with Lia, what Lia means to her, and how having legal marriage has affected their life.

It was deeply touching. As the court house closed up that day, one woman spoke with me and said, “I never wanted to get married until I heard Helen Zia speak. I want to know what it’s like to feel what she described.”

In the words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will live as one.”

Look for my new book Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why It Will Prevail, April 2010.

For updates of the Prop 8 trial for January 24 and 25th, go to: Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker. I'm hitting the proverbial showers.

Image: Helen Zia (left) and wife Lia (right).

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