Two historians appeared in federal court on Tuesday in the Proposition 8 case which challenges a voter sanctioned ban on marriage for same-sex couples in California. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday that Harvard history professor Nancy Cott spoke to the court about the history of marriage and the evolution of matrimony in America:
Those who supported prohibitions on weddings across racial lines, bans dating from colonial days that the Supreme Court abolished only in 1967, often argued that “the institution would be degraded, their own marriages would be devalued” if such unions were allowed, Nancy Cott testified in San Francisco on the second day of the U.S. District Court trial of a suit challenging Prop. 8.
Similarly, she said, 19th century laws in most states that required women to surrender their property, earnings and legal status to their husbands were viewed by their supporters as “absolutely essential to what marriage was.” It took a series of Supreme Court rulings in the 1970s, Cott said, to stamp out the remnants of sex discrimination in marriage laws.George Chauncey, a Yale historian specializing in 20th century LGBT studies, also testified on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported:
After viewing several television commercials produced by Proposition 8’s sponsors, Chauncey said images and language suggesting the ballot initiative was needed to “protect children” were reminiscent of earlier efforts to “demonize” gays, ranging from police raids on gay bars during the 1950s to campaigns to rid public schools of gay teachers in the 1970s.
“You have a pretty strong echo of this idea that simple exposure to gay people and their relationships is somehow going to lead a whole generation of young kids to become gay,” Chauncey said. “The underlying message here is something about the undesirability of homosexuals, that we don’t want our children to become this way.”The case is drawing a great deal of national media attention. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, on last nights program and discussed the landmark case as well as Ted Olson’s recent Newsweek editorial titled, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.” The Huffington Post published an article on Wednesday titled, “Let the Prop 8 Trial Be Broadcast,” that calls on the Supreme Court to lift a temporary stay on broadcasting the proceedings. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the case, noted on Monday that he had received over 138,000 signatures in favor of a broadcast and just 32 opposed. A final decision is expected later today. GLAAD will continue to follow the media’s coverage of the Prop. 8 case. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org