Saturday, January 16, 2010
The first week of trial testimony has concluded in the first federal trial on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. Our primer of the case is here, a Q&A for CUNY School of Law here, and our previous discussions of testimony in previous days here and here.
Thursday and Friday saw more expert witnesses including
- Edmund Egan, the Chief Economist of the City of San Francisco (the city is an intervenor in the case), who testified that Proposition 8 has had a negative impact on the city's economy and budget;
- Professor Ilan Meyer (pictured right) Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, who testified about his research regarding the relationship of minority status, minority identity, prejudice and discrimination and mental health outcomes in sexual minorities and the intersection of minority stressors related to sexual orientation;
- Professor Michael Lamb, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge University UK, who testified about the consequences of denying same-sex marriage to parents given that children in general do better when their parents have adequate social supports such as marriage;
- Helen Zia (pictured left) former Executive Director of Ms. Magazine, who testified, over defense objection, regarding her experiences regarding her lesbianism and same-sex marriage.
More specifics about the testimony can be found at the twitter and live-blogging sites previously mentioned, as well as daily synopsis notably from National Center for Lesbian Rights and protectmarriage.com, as well as the excellent live-blogging from Howard Mintz of the Mercury News (starting with day 1 here).
The reporting - - - and widespread student interest - - - in the case provides some wonderful teaching opportunities. Most of the study of constitutional law concentrates on SCOTUS opinions, and highly edited ones at that. The type of fact analysis necessary for the practice of law, including constitutional law, can be difficult to glean from most SCOTUS opinions. The Proposition 8 trial coverage (alas not on You Tube, but nevertheless) provides the important perspective of litigating constitutional law at trial.
One could ask students to consider a specific portion of testimony elicited on direct or redirect, or a specific question asked in cross-examination, and answer questions such as the following:
- to what legal argument does it pertain?
- could it be relevant to more than one legal argument? which ones?
- what type of testimony/evidence should the opposing party introduce?
- are there credibility issues with the witness?
This could be a great in-class exercise, a short take-home assignment, or even a multiple choice quiz.