Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hollingsworth v. Perry: A Brief Observed

The second part of Cordell Asbenson's story about sitting in on the Supreme Court's landmark hearing on gay marriage (Hollingsworth v. Perry). Here's part one. And here's some epic music to listen to while you read.

Cordell (right) with a progressive activist (left).
Armed with boldness and the truth, I got up on Tuesday ready to go in and hear the arguments of both sides. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was anticipating that the judges would be leaning towards ruling that defining marriage as between one man and one woman would be unconstitutional. That is what the media was saying. We have all seen the articles, Time magazine this week declared that the battle was already over, and that gay marriage had won. Still, I would be lying to say that I was not excited to hear the arguments. I walked past the rows of cameras and crowed calling for equality and stepped into the Supreme Court.

The arguments began with attorney Charles Cooper arguing to uphold Proposition 8. I was watching all of the judges closely to see if their body language would give away any signs of their feelings, particularly Justice Kennedy, who is expected to be the deciding vote in the case. The audience itself was full of gay rights advocates, including the Lt. Governor of California Gavin Newsom. While no one in the audience was allowed to speak, the body language of the audience showed that traditional marriage supporters were vastly outnumbered by gay rights supporters. But judging by the questions and reactions by the judges you would not have known it.

Cooper was no PHC Moot Courter, he stumbled several times, and was not quick on his feet, but he defended the case well. He answered questions on the important of children having a mom and a dad, why tradition marriage was better than gay marriage, and even addressed the issue of standing (that is, whether the people appealing to the Supreme Court could claim sufficient harm to use the Third Amendment’s right to appeal). To my jubilant surprise Justice Kennedy seemed to be agreeing with Cooper on his responses. Even more shocking, those justices who are known to be in favor of gay rights, mainly, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, didn’t ask many difficult questions.

When Mr. Olson and Solicitor General Verrilli, got up to argue against proposition 8, things changed. Justice Roberts and Scalia hammered them both on several issues. Scalia asked Olson, “When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexuals from marriage?” Olson could not answer the question, and after minutes of Olson trying to get away from the question, Scalia finally leaned back in his chair with a look of displeasure on his face that seemed to say, "this is pointless he doesn’t have an answer.” Justice Alito had an equally publicized interaction with the Solicitor General when he stated that both sides seemed to agree on something, they both agree that marriage is important. He said that both sides agree that marriage is a building block to society, but then he commented that traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years while gay marriage had only been recognized for just over a decade, making it younger than cellphones.

Going in, the gay supporters in the room were happy, smiling, and excited for the arguments. The few of us who were supporting traditional marriage were apprehensive and unsure what would happen. When we left, those supporting marriage equality were downcast and uncomfortable, while those in favor of natural marriage were smiling, laughing, and optimistic. The atmosphere had changed completely from an hour and a half before – at least inside the court. I took one step outside and felt like a sheep among wolves yet again. I was hit by the screams of hundreds of people in front of the court calling for equality, and signs all over calling for the same. One sign, held by an individual dressed in a pink net, wearing horns and holding a cross, said “I bet hell is fabulous.”

I say all these things because as I walked down the steps of the Supreme Court I said to myself, “I need to tell people what is going on. I need to spread the truth.” I don’t mean the truth about marriage. That has been made clear by a much better authority than I. But rather the truth about what is going on in this nation, and what we as Christians can do about it.

The truth is that the battle is not over. No side has won. I watched the court ask questions and respond to arguments in such a way that gave me more hope than I have had since 2008 that the gay rights movement might be losing steam. I saw clips of the March for Marriage that happened during the arguments and had more participants in it than those screaming in front of the Supreme Court. Yet the media continues to tell us we have no hope. But we have hope, and we cannot forget that.

There is a harder truth I must speak, however. I stood out in front of the Supreme Court for 4 days, spent the night on the cold ground, though snow, sleet, and rain. I even caught a cold and still gave interviews, by God’s strength. My fellow interns and intern coordinator made similar efforts. But despite these feats that left many of us several belt loops smaller, the media ran to us, not because of our survivor skills, but because we were the only voices to speak out for what was right. The truth is, I was sad and disappointed. I felt like the forces of truth had given up. That the media had declared victory and our troops went home.

I know some of you are in college, some of you are in high school, some of you have jobs, and that these things keep you from being able to drop everything and sit in line to watch oral arguments at the Supreme Court. But that does not mean that you have to keep silent about the truth. The truth is, Christians don’t hate same-sex couples, they hate the act, the sin, of homosexuality. The truth is that same-sex marriage is not about equal rights, it is about an agenda, it is about what “I” want, and it is scientifically proven to hurt people physically and emotionally. It rips apart society and disregards any meaning of family.

I ask you reader, to be bold. Don’t be afraid of what others might say, what argument might be brought up to counter you. You hold the truth, and the truth will be mocked (again, think of the disciples). But how can the truth spread if you don’t speak it. We can no longer rely on others to speak out. For some of you this might mean you go into the public sphere at your school and stand for the truth. For others, it might mean simply speaking up when people speak out in support of gay marriage. But don’t let fear keep you from being bold in the truth. This battle is not lost, God is with us, and in the end, we know who wins. So stand firm, speak out and remember who is with you.

by Cordell Asbenson


  1. Thank you Cordell for this inside look. I also very much appreciate the encouragement to stand up for what is right. Keep fighting and God bless!

  2. I agree that we must not be silent for fear of offending those in error. So many times I am reprimanded by well meaning Christians who are afraid I will offend homosexuals. The loving thing to do for someone caught up in a sinful lifestyle of any kind is to remind them of God's words about it and encourage them to change their behavior.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and giving us encouragement, Mr. Asbenson. You have inspired me.