I was energized by the news last week that Christie Herring’s work-in-progress The Campaign was just awarded a new grant from Chicken & Egg Pictures. All week I had been following the related so-called Prop 8 trial, Kristin M. Perry v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, through the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 trial tracker. Christie attended our MASS MoCA residency in 2009 when her film was in early development.
The Campaign follows the daily efforts and emotional rollercoaster of the community of people working to stop Prop 8, the 2008 Constitutional Amendment to end gay marriage in California. The film offers extraordinary behind-the-scene access and compelling evidence that what unfolded in this California campaign was a focused and cynical push to eliminate the fundamental rights of a “despised” minority.
As the trial heads into its third week in a U.S. District Court, Christie’s film and the story she is telling takes on new significance. The daily proceedings in the courtroom are astonishing; the plaintiffs case is that there is and was no bias against gays in this effort, a viewpoint which Christie’s film clearly undoes. As the defense began its case this week I asked Christie for her perceptions about this case, an update for her film and how folks can get involved and support her documentary. Here’s her response:
Hey Robert, I also have been following the case by tweet and blog. It touches on so many issues that affect me and people I love – airing out the ugliness of homophobia (last week’s testimony included a “Yes on Prop 8” leader claiming that homosexuality has been linked to pedophilia), the trauma that the ex-gay movement inflicts on us and our loved ones, the long term effects of internalized homophobia, and the reality of our lukewarm political support. It’s upsetting and infuriating.
The court fight is focused on a national / federal approach to LGBT rights and specifically marriage equality. This is a departure from the state-by-state strategy that’s been the focus of much of the movement thus far. The Campaign explores these strategies through Proposition 8, which has spanned both. In California, Proposition 8 stripped same gender couples of the right to marry, a fundamental right recognized and protected by the California Supreme Court just months before the 2004 election. By documenting the dedication and struggle inside the No On 8 campaign, my film makes clear how precious marriage equality is to LGBT families and how hard so many people fought to protect the equality and dignity that was ours for a just a moment. The Perry case will take this issue to the Federal Courts and eventually challenge the US Supreme Court to rule on the quality and validity of the families we form. The stakes are high, and there has been some disagreement among LGBT leaders about whether the Perry case is the right strategy and at the right time. But this is a disagreement about strategy, not values or direction. The common denominator is that marriage equality is precious and worth fighting for.
Here is a rationale behind the state-by-state strategy, written by some folks at the Gill Foundation. Patrick Guerreriro was Campaign Manager for No on 8: “The Lesson of Danny and Marilyn.” Here is the case for the Federal approach written by Robin McGeehee and Kip Williams, the two co-directors of the National Equality March in Washington (October 2009),: “Let’s Stop Talking about Failure and Go Win.” And then here are two interesting articles outlining how this case came about – it’s political history: “CHALLENGING PROP 8: THE HIDDEN STORY: How Hollywood activists seized control of the fight for gay marriage” and also “A Risky Proposal: Is it too soon to petition the Supreme Court on gay marriage?”
For me, I say hit them from every angle. I go back to the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which I posted on the film’s Facebook page: “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability … We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” Civil rights and social justice do not transform overnight. And every right we secure must be protected. No matter what happens, we will need to keep fighting together and moving forward. I hope one lesson from The Campaign is the knowledge that the work itself is transformative and empowering. We are excited about this new support from Chicken & Egg Pictures; folks can see some clips from the film on YouTube. Go to our Facebook page or our website to learn more.