Mid-day report: Friday morning Prop 8 trial

Michael Lamb

Michael Lamb

SAN FRANCISCO – There was some extra drama in and outside the courtroom this morning when one of the defense’s attorneys, David Thompson, told Judge Vaughn Walker that defense had withdrawn many of its witnesses because of their fears about being videotaped and subjected to harassment.

“They were extremely concerned about their personal safety and didn’t want to appear,” said Thompson. He made the comment as the legal team opposing Proposition 8 objected to Thompson attempting to introduce written testimony by their own experts while cross-examining one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses.

During a lunchtime press conference, plaintiff attorneys David Boies and Ted Boutrous said the tactic was just an attempt to avoid cross-examination of the defense experts by plaintiffs.

“The experts they withdrew were ones that [gave deposition statements] that simply disagree with their thesis,” said Boies. He said plaintiffs would introduce evidence later to show that the defense’s own experts have “admitted that they did not have a basis for believing that same-sex marriages would harm heterosexual marriages and no reason for depriving gay and lesbian couples marriage [and doing so is] depriving gay and lesbian couples harm. They admit that,” said Boies, “and it guts the case of defendants.”

Testimony in the Proposition 8 trial Friday morning has focused squarely on children—specifically, whether having gay or lesbian parents has any effect on their well-being.

While the topic is a very serious one both culturally and legally, defense attorney Thompson has turned it into a bit of a Scalia-like circus: asking inane questions such as “Can we agree that men can’t breastfeed?” prompting the courtroom to erupt in laughter.

On the witness stand is a Cambridge University professor, Michael Lamb, who has been brought to the federal district court trial by those challenging the same-sex marriage ban. He has been qualified to serve as an expert witness on child development generally, and the development of children of gay and lesbian parents specifically.

Lamb and Thompson are essentially sparring over statements made in various parenting research articles—some more than 25 years old and some written by Lamb when he was a graduate student. The results have sometimes been amusing and provoking a crowded courtroom audience to erupt in laughter.

Lamb’s basic point is two-fold: First, that children whose parents are a same-sex couple would benefit from having those parents marry because it would provide the child with a sense of being an accepted part of society. And second, that the best parents for any child are two parents who are committed to, engaged with, and focused on the child enough to be “effective at reading the signals of a child and understanding what the child needs, and providing appropriate guidance.” It does not matter, says Lamb, whether the two parents are mother and father or two mothers or two fathers.

Thompson has been attempting to lay down evidence to claim that it does matter and that children are disadvantaged when they don’t have one father and one mother.

Interestingly, it was the plaintiffs attorney Matthew McGill who brought into evidence a statement by President Obama concerning the importance of fathers. In the statement, which has been widely reported, Obama stated that the absence of fathers in a child’s live render him or her “twenty times more likely to end up in prison,” among other negative consequences.

Lamb criticized the statement, saying it did not reflect research that includes same-sex parents and blurs the line between cause and correlation.

“It also doesn’t acknowledge,” said Lamb, “that…the majority of children in families without a father are perfectly well-adjusted.”

One Response to Mid-day report: Friday morning Prop 8 trial

  1. […] Keen has a good summary up already on this morning’s testimony by Dr. Michael Lamb of Cambridge University, who very patiently explained to the defense that it is […]

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