Friday, August 13, 2010

The damage done

In one of the many strange jobs I have had along the crazy-ass road to where I am now, I used to analyze claims for a company that, legally, could only pay out if there had been a violation of an obscure little corner of the legal codes. Okay, so figuring out if the law had been violated was frequently easy, but there was always a more basic question to be answered before any checks got written:

How are they damaged?

And I don’t mean how were the people that made the claims damaged as humans, although lord knows I could’ve written a book about that. What it means is, upon what is their claim for damages based? It’s such an important question, and yet one that’s so easy to lose sight of as you slog through the piles of facts and allegations, that at the time of my employ I wrote it large on a piece of paper and tacked it to the wall of my cubicle: How are they damaged?

Later, when I served on the jury at a civil trial wherein an inmate of LA County’s correctional system sued the county for allegedly denying him medical treatment during his processing, the question would take prominence in my life again, as I sat in the jury box for 6 weeks watching the plaintiff’s lawyers bark up a succession of wrong trees.

We denied the plaintiff an award, mostly because he was caught in a lie in court - and caught on film not using his arm sling by a private detection hired by the county. But what bugged me most was that his attorneys had ignored the most important question to be addressed in a civil suit. When the jury was released and the lawyers from both sides stopped us in the hallway and asked us why we had gone the way we did, I couldn’t help but let my long-stewing frustration escape. “You never demonstrated damages!” I said to the plaintiff’s side. “Even if we had believed him, we were supposed to base an award on – what?” I recall that the attorneys for the plaintiff looked a little stunned at my intensity – or maybe they were just pissed that they had spent months working for no payday. When I looked over at the county’s attorneys, I expected them to nod in agreement and murmur something along the lines of “she’s quite right, of course.” Instead they eyed me suspiciously, as lawyers are wont to do when someone outside of their profession borrows their language and employs it to make a point of her own.

And the point is, if you’re going to drag all those people into a hideous paneled room with uncomfortable chairs and no internet access for a month and a half and make them listen to how you’ve done been wronged, then you damn well better say exactly what’s wrong with you, and exactly what it’s going to take to make it right. But the good news about that whole waste of time was that although points of order and the rules of hearsay and the citing of precedents can all get pretty complicated, the basic principles of law can be so refreshingly simple, that even a woman trained as an actress can understand them.

Which brings us to last week, when Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, was overturned in court. The proponents of P8 argued the case alone because the Governator and our Attorney General and former Linda Ronstadt beau/current gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown declined to defend the vile piece of legislative caca. And those proponents failed to accomplish, and perhaps even to identify, the one crucial goal of their case.

Bet you can guess what that was.

And for those of us who have spent the last couple of years arguing with homophobic idiots, saying “tell me how it hurts you if gay people get married!” vindication has come at last. Whether we knew it or not, we had put our fingers on the pivotal argument of the case, and just like in real life, wherein our asshat relatives stammer about the sanctity of an institution that they themselves have managed to unsanctify on occasions too numerous to numerate, the proponents of P8 failed to address the crux, and the judge quite rightly called them on their weak-ass shit. They could not demonstrate damages, my friends, and that, as my mom used to say, is the name of that tune.

Of course the final word has yet to be written on Prop 8. It’s difficult to imagine that those five uptight SCOTUS motherfuckers wouldn’t be game to fuck it all up. After all, they’re all Catholics, a church that might not win the gold medal for homo-hating, but it’s certainly, you know, on the podium.

Meanwhile, Judge Walker has set the clock ticking on the stay that keeps gay people from marrying right now in the wake of the overturning of P8. The proponents of P8 are being allowed a chance to argue that P8 should remain in force until the appeals are exhausted, but in another glorious turn of the legal screw, they might not have grounds to even argue the stay in court because…get this, now…they can’t demonstrate that lifting the stay would damage them.

Fuck yeah.

How glorious would it be if the court decided that all those meat-headed hatemongers don’t even have a dog in the gay marriage hunt?

If that day comes, and 5pm Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 brings an end to religion-backed bigotry in California, then rejoice, readers, for Lady Justice has shown herself to be not only blind, but maybe a tiny bit butch as well.


Michael said...

I don't know if it's a bad omen or what, but my word verification for this comment is "nopharys".

Otherwise, preach on, sister!

SkylersDad said...

Awesome. Brilliant as usual Vikki.

If you don't want it, can I have the rights to the "After all, they’re all Catholics, a church that might not win the gold medal for homo-hating, but it’s certainly, you know, on the podium" bumper sticker?

I know it's a wee bit long, but I think a lot of folks would wrap that bad boy all around their back bumper!

Aaron said...

F yes! Very succinct.

Liberality said...

I'm tired of having a bunch of Catholics on the high court. We need some atheists, Hindus, and Buddhists on there for a change.

Word verification: mendi!

Professor Chaos said...

I attended a gay wedding a few years ago, and I somehow managed to remain completely un-damaged!

Anonymous said...

The damages argument. Short and to the point, although the point will continue to be lost on my homophobic Catholic relatives Still, it will save me time from arguing the "You are against gay marriage but you send your kids to Catholic school and fund raise year round for an institution that goes out of its way to harbor and shield pedophiles?" argument.

Marshall Park Slope said...

excellent vikki, always love your personal history connections...good news from my VA weekend, is that some of the "homophobic idiots" are starting to give. I just spent the weekend saying, "we the people"...