It’s a rainy Sunday morning here in my little corner of the world. To brighten things a little, I have a fire in the fireplace and an awesome blog to share by Blythe Rippon about her debut novel, Barring Complications.
There are some links at the end of her blog that will take you where you need to go to buy the book. Trust me, after reading this blog, you’re going to want to.
Barring Complications, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and gay judges
by Blythe Rippon
It was a typical morning in San Francisco, which is to say, it was chilly and foggy. I made my way to the elevator of the courthouse and exited on the floor where opening arguments of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial were slated to begin in just an hour. With my wife and my brother-in-law, I anxiously waited in the line of onlookers hoping for a seat in the courtroom. Naturally, the security guard cut off entrants to the room right before our little group. We were redirected to an overflow room one floor up. It was the only place, other than the courtroom itself, where people would be able to see video of the proceedings. Although Judge Vaughn Walker had announced that he would allow cameras in the courtroom, and plans had been made to simulcast the proceedings in various locations around San Francisco and online, that morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the videos could not be made public. In an ironic turn of events, the defense (for our purposes, the bad guys) had requested SCOTUS block transmission of the video because they were worried their witnesses would become targets of public outrage and potentially even violence. That’s right, folks: the defense argued that because their witnesses would be speaking out against gay marriage, they would be in danger.
I was very lucky indeed to be able to watch the trial—some days in the courtroom and some days in the overflow room where video of the testimony was simulcast. Most of the people following the trial—and I would suggest that a great deal of LGBT people interested in the outcome did follow it—learned about each day’s proceedings via blogs or the lengthy trial transcripts. I was struck every day by the things that happened in the courtroom that couldn’t be captured by these written accounts. The little gestures of support the plaintiffs offered each other after grueling and personally painful cross-examinations. The almost palpable frustration in the room when the defense’s only witness, David Blankenhorn, was argumentative, irritable, and generally unhelpful—until, that is, he said his most famous line in the trial: we will all be more American the day we let gays and lesbians marry. Remember, he was a witness for the bad guys.
The experience of witnessing the trial firsthand inspired me to write a novel about the personal costs of such a trial. Because the plaintiffs’ journeys are so well-documented at this point (HBO just did a documentary about them), and because so little attention gets focused on the jurists who decide such trials, I started with a Supreme Court Justice. Victoria’s gay, but not out publicly, and when she learns that SCOTUS will be hearing a gay marriage case, she feels mounting pressure to convince one of her conservative colleagues to vote in favor of marriage equality. On the other side of the case, we see Genevieve, a superstar lawyer and crusader for LGBT rights. While Victoria works on the case from the inside, Genevieve and her team of lawyers must craft oral arguments convincing enough to win the case for their clients. Since this is fiction, and gay marriage trials are fundamentally about love, I threw in some romance. Genevieve and Victoria have a history with each other. But because there’s an open case before the court, and Genevieve’s arguing it, the two women are legally forbidden from talking to one another.
Barring Complications was a labor of love for me in more ways than one. It’s in part an homage to the work of the legal teams who argued cases such as Perry and Windsor (the case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act). It’s in part an homage to the five justices who voted in favor of marriage equality in 2012 and Judge Vaughn Walker, who wrote a beautiful and powerful decision overturning Prop 8 at the district level. After his decision came down, the defense attempted to have it vacated on the grounds that, as an openly gay man, Walker could not have decided the case impartially. Their motion was denied.
This is all heavy, emotional stuff, but there’s also a lot of room for humor here. Along the way I got to meet some of the players in the real drama—the four plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, their legal team, and Judge Walker. I was endlessly impressed by the way these people, in the midst of changing history, kept their senses of humor. I tried to bring their irreverence, puns, and generally silliness into the novel as well. I hope you all get a chance to read Barring Complications—if you do, please let me know what you think!
Thanks to the women of Women and Words for letting me share some of my inspirations for Barring Complications, published by Ylva and available at an Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, or BarnesandNoble.com near you.