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'8' the Play and the Most Effective Legal Argument for Marriage Recognition


On Saturday, I had the distinct honor of attending the Los Angeles premiere of Dustin Lance Black's play, '8' for Towleroad. From the balcony of a packed Wilshire Ebell theatre, I could see why the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact felt so strongly about this production: it brought together more than 200,000 people, raised $2 million, and showed the world why marriage recognition is not just a matter of time. It is a matter of law.

8It was a satisfying experience from a personal perspective, as well -- I'm not ashamed to admit that I got my fanboy on with the incomparable Yeardley Smith (her glamorous dress was certainly not from Lamps Plus), the gorgeous Matt Bomer, who said I had a "hot dork" vibe (blush!), and the gracious Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

But, "8" was more than just a sparkling gathering of the Hollywood glitterati; it was a powerful statement of the most effective legal argument for marriage recognition for gay persons: love, family, and community.

Regular Towleroad readers may recall that I have argued that couching our quest for marriage recognition solely in the language of "rights" or "freedom" or "equality" is incomplete and unhelpful. It's not that we aren't seeking certain rights and freedoms, but that's only part of the story. We seek to express our love through state recognition, to join the community of persons who raise children in wedlock, and benefit those children, our communities, and our nation by removing a burden on certain families that are no different than others. The LA version of "8," which Mr. Black slightly edited after the New York premiere, captured this message of love, honor, and family (an essentially conservative message) and reflected the power Ted Olson's, David Boies's, and AFER's arguments at trial.


Most of the play came directly from transcripts of the trial before Judge Vaughn Walker, and because the tapes of that trial will not be released, "8" is the only lifeline we have to Perry's drama, heart-breaking tragedy, and triumphant victory. Mr. Black and Director Rob Reiner interspersed the "Yes on 8 " commercials which attempted to scare viewers in order to obscure the real issue of marriage recognition. Mr. Reiner also directed perfectly, especially, Jane Lynch and John C. Reilly as the hate-filled Maggie Gallagher and the bumbling Dr. Blankenhorn, respectively, bringing out Ms. Gallagher's moral bankruptcy and Mr. Blankenhorn's scientific numbskullery.

IMG_0208Mr. Reilly was particularly impressive, stumbling and stewing in his seat, arguing with George Clooney and begging Brad Pitt for "just one sentence, please, just one sentence" to answer a question. Martin Sheen took on Mr. Olson with such gusto, evoking the Josiah Bartlett running for President in "The West Wing," that the audience roused with an extended applause. And, Jane Lynch was almost too brilliant as Ms. Gallagher; Ms. Lynch's comedic timing made Gallagher appear foolish, a caricature, fodder for ridicule. Ms. Gallagher is also that, but her words are too vile to be taken so lightly.

That a good trial makes for good drama is not surprising; Dick Wolf has made a career out of that fact. But, Mssrs. Black and Reiner took a good drama and made it good politics and law by emphasizing the human and family values of the quest for marriage recognition.

As the plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, respectively, Christine Lahti and Jamie Lee Curtis joked about how their sons do not like to be seen in public with their moms and they did their best to leave trial to get home in time for soccer practice. Should they get pizza? Would Spencer Perry have enough time to study for his test? How was Elliot Perry going to get to soccer practice? Ms. Lahti almost cried when she expressed her undying love for her son, and Ms. Curtis wanted nothing more than to live a normal life. Theirs was a family making sacrifices that no family should have to make, and even their teenage boy could see it. Elliot Perry (played by Jansen Panettiere) "hated that we have to do this" not because he was missing soccer, but because no one should have to justify the legitimacy of the family.

IMG_0197Mr. Panettiere was reminding us that the fight for marriage recognition is about Elliot and Spencer ("Spence"), the loving family in which they are being raised, and the thousands of families like theirs. It is essentially a conservative quest: to bring the stabilizing and legitimizing force of state-sanctioned marriage to the gay community. While Martin Sheen turned red-faced delivering Ted Olson's rousing closing argument about due process rights and the liberty of intimate decision-making, and George Clooney's David Boies dissected the baffling Blankenhorn, and Chris Colfer told a powerful story of antigay hatred, it was the snippets of family -- Sandra affectionately comforting Kristin, Paul Katami (Matthew Morrison) taking Jeff Zarrillo (Matt Bomer) by the hand, Kristin crying about what the trial is doing to her son, and Paul getting misty-eyed that anyone could consider him (the "cool uncle") a danger to anyone -- that really struck home.

This was the singular achievement of "8": Looking for great drama, and a few laughs, Mr. Black and Mr. Reiner found good law. Bans on marriage recognition are unconstitutional because they burden families and interfere with the most personal of personal obligations. States have no reason to ban gays from the institution of marriage because doing so actually harms the state by making it harder to raise children. And, demeaning the love of one class of persons can never serve any legitimate state interests. That story cannot fully be told in the language of rights and equality. Mr. Black and Mr. Reiner stumbled upon the same conclusion by creating a play that made the "right" to marry about love, honor, and family.

I encourage everyone to watch the full production, which Andy posted yesterday. I also have a few more pictures of those stars who so generously took a moment to talk to me posted @ariezrawaldman on Twitter.


Ari Ezra Waldman is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. After practicing in New York for five years and clerking at a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., Ari is now on the faculty at California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. His research focuses on gay rights and the First Amendment. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 8:34 PM EST by in Ari Ezra Waldman, Gay Marriage, News, Proposition 8 | Permalink | Comments (24)

Santorum-Supporting Hate Group Launches Anti-Gay Robo-Call Attack on Romney in Ohio

Brian Camenker of the hate group Mass Resistance appears on a robo-call that began targeting Ohio voters today. The call, produced by Santorum supporters 'Jews and Christians Together', targets Romney for his positions on LGBT issues.

CamenkerThe script:

"Hi, my name is Brian Camenker; I'm a Jew from Massachusetts.

"And, this is Darcy Brandon; I'm a Christian from California. If you believe as we do that marriage and sexuality should only be between a man and a woman, please help us stop Mitt Romney.

"As Governor, Romney signed 'Gay Youth Pride Day' proclamations, promoted homosexuality in our elementary schools, and unconstitutionally ordered state officals to make Massachusetts America's first same-sex marriage state. Romney supports open homosexuality in the military, the appointment of homosexual judges, and the ENDA law, making it illegal to fire a man who wears a dress and high heels to work, even if he's your kid's teacher. When you vote tomorrow, please vote for social sanity and Rick Santorum, NOT for homosexuality and Mitt Romney.

"Rick Santorum is the ONLY candidate who can be trusted to uphold traditional marriage, a straight military, and the rights of American children to have both a mother and a father. This message paid for by Jews and Christians and not authorized by any candidate. To get the facts before you vote, visit Jews and Christians"

The call is produced by Camenker and Dr. Gary Cass, president of

(via think progress)

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 8:10 PM EST by in 2012 Election, Brian Camenker, Mitt Romney, News, Rick Santorum | Permalink | Comments (24)

Report: 40 People Kidnapped, Tortured, Murdered in Surge of Anti-Gay Violence in Iraq

Via press release from the IGLHRC:

IraqThe International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has today received reports from Iraq of a wave of targeted killings of individuals who are perceived to be gay or lesbian. According to Iraqi human rights activists, in early February 2012, an unidentified group posted death threats against "the adulterous individuals" in the pre-dominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra. The threats gave the individuals, whose names and ages were listed, four days to stop their behavior or else face the wrath of God, and were to be carried out by the Mujahedin. According to sources inside Iraq, as the result of this new surge of anti-gay violence close to 40 people have been kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered. The Iraqi authorities have neither responded to this targeted violence nor have they publically denounced it. It is widely believed that these atrocities are being committed by a group of the Shiite militia.

Said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in a statement:

Today the Government of Iraq represents a fully sovereign and democratic country. As such, it must protect all of its citizens including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from hate-filled violence and death at the hands of armed militias. Vigilantes who perpetuate the targeted killing of those perceived to be gay or lesbian must not be tolerated in a new Iraq. We have seen these atrocities before. In 2009 vigilantes murdered hundreds of Iraqi individuals for their perceived sexual orientation. There are no excuses for such heinous human rights violations. We demand that the Iraqi Government put a stop to the wanton persecution and killing of gay people, and that the perpetrators punished.   

Obviously, we'll be on the lookout for any further developments or confirmation...

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 7:54 PM EST by in Iraq, News | Permalink | Comments (13)

Michele Bachmann Calls Piers Morgan 'Absolutely Rude' for Suggesting She Judges Gay People: VIDEO


Michele Bachmann is shocked when Piers Morgan suggests that she's judgmental about gays:

"I'm not here as anybody's judge...Well, that's rude. That's absolutely rude....I believe in traditional values. I believe in marriage between a man and a woman but I don't believe that's bigoted."


Jeremy Hooper at Good As You reminds us of her 2004 remarks:

"Any of you who have members of your family that are in the lifestyle—we have a member of our family that is. This is not funny. It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay."

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 6:40 PM EST by in Michelle Bachmann, News, Piers Morgan | Permalink | Comments (36)

Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1076

MINNESOTA: Couples advocate against the proposed ban on same-sex marriage.

GRAN CANARIA: The island's annual drag contest has produced a winner.

CHRIS CROCKER: His latest foray into pop music.

BRITNEY SPEARS: The journey of a face.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 5:40 PM EST by in Chris Crocker, Drag Queens, Minnesota, News, Towleroad Guide to the Tube | Permalink | Comments (5)

News: Truman Capote, SLDN, Brahim Zaibat, Urban Meyer

RoadServicemembers Legal Defense Network celebrates 20th anniversary at D.C. gala.

CapoteRoadTruman Capote's Brooklyn Heights townhouse sells for $12 million: "After almost two years on the market, the yellow mansion where Capote wrote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” has reportedly fetched the highest price for a single-family home in borough history...The 18-room home boasts 11 fireplaces, parking for four cars, crystal chandeliers, Greek Revival columns, and a stairwell mural copied from the Kennedy White House. It was originally listed at $18 million in May 2010."

RoadVIDEO: Bitch plays piano and sings.

RoadMichelangelo Signorile and MetroWeekly's Chris Geidner sound off on the choice of Chad Griffin to head the Human Rights Campaign.

RoadWas President Buchanan gay?

RoadABC News looks at the upcoming Lavender Scare documentary about the anti-gay witch hunts in the 1950's. I posted about it last July. Check out the trailer here.

RoadReport: Brahim Zaibat asks Madonna to marry him.

ReedusRoadNorman Reedus stretches out for Flaunt.

RoadMiami-Dade Transit not happy that gay adult films are being shot on their buses. "We counted about three different buses used. On one of them, what looked like a bill of sale was evident on a window. And at least one film clearly showed the bus picking up a hunk at a 73 bus stop, which travels from Dadeland South Metrorail Station to Northwest 186 Street in Miami Lakes."

RoadPrince Harry hits Belize.

RoadUN panel to address LGBT discrimination: "The panellists leading the discussion include Irina Karla Bacci, vice-president National Council for LGBT Persons in Brazil; Laurence Helfer, co-director, Center for International and Comparative Law at Duke University in the US; Hina Jilani, chair, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Hans Ytterberg, chair of the Council of Europe Expert Committee on Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity."

RoadMale model fix: Jean Poirier.

HemsworthRoadLiam Hemsworth broods for GQ Style.

RoadBakery owners find possum stuffed with pastries.

RoadOhio State head football coach Urban Meyer apologizes to LGBT group for using lavender jerseys to punish lazy athletes. "Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the purple mesh pullovers. The use if purple was never intended to offend anyone but since it has, we have taken steps to change the color."

RoadBoston's Fenway Health Clinic honors Barney Frank.

RoadFreddie Ljungberg to join UK's Celebrity Big Brother.

RoadGeorge W. Bush impersonator dies: "Steve Bridges, 48, a comic actor and impersonator who was best known for his mimicry of President George W. Bush and appeared alongside the chief executive at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Assn. dinner, was found dead Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. Bridges had recently returned home from China, where he had been performing, said his brother Phillip. He appeared to have died of natural causes. VIDEO.

Posted Mar. 5,2012 at 4:10 PM EST by | Permalink | Comments (14)


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