Linda Greenhouse's Self-Righteous Stand on California's Gay-Marriage Ban

Former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse lets down her liberal hair on in a column on California's Proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage: "Has anyone noticed that now that lesbians and gay men have left the closet to assert their equal rights as citizens, their adversaries seem to be running for a closet of their own?"

Former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse now holds court with a twice-monthly column for the paper's Opinionator blog, confirming the suspicions of many regarding her personal political slant. Two weeks ago she admitted donating to the Obama campaign after retiring from the paper (Times reporters are not allowed to donate to political campaigns).

In her latest column, "Into the Closet," posted Thursday evening, Greenhouse takes a self-righteous stand against Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative which outlawed gay marriage in California.

Has anyone noticed that now that lesbians and gay men have left the closet to assert their equal rights as citizens, their adversaries seem to be running for a closet of their own?

My observation is, of course, prompted by the success that opponents of same-sex marriage had this week in persuading the Supreme Court to bar cameras from the San Francisco courtroom where Proposition 8 is now on trial. That is the amendment that California's voters added to the state's Constitution to provide that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Greenhouse delivered a speech at Harvard in June 2006 lamenting "the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."

That intrajudicial melodrama, so delicious that I could not resist describing it, should not obscure the larger canvas against which this episode unfolded. The Proposition 8 backers are far from the only proponents of "traditional marriage" to run for cover after invoking the levers of direct democracy. And the Supreme Court may have just begun to explore the issues raised by this quest for a new application of the old right to privacy.


There is a rich body of law on anonymity for political speakers and actors, including landmark Supreme Court decisions from the civil rights era protecting the N.A.A.C.P. against forced disclosure of its membership lists. For the most part, the decisions have been highly attentive to context. A question now is whether the opponents of same-sex marriage can plausibly claim, as their court papers have sought to do, that they face threats to their lives and property comparable to those faced by civil rights workers in the Deep South in the 1950's and 1960's. A challenge to compelled disclosure of financial information under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law is part of the current Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which was argued in September and on which the justices appear to be permanently stuck.

For some reasons why opponents of gay marriage may fear for their lives and property, Greenhouse could have checked this contemporaneous account in the Washington Post, which detailed some of the threatening tactics used against supporters of Proposition 8:

The backlash against those who supported a ban on same-sex marriage continues to roil California and nearby states.

Protests and vandalism of churches, boycotts of businesses and possibly related mailings of envelopes filled with white powder have followed the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

In Sacramento, a high-profile theater director resigned from his job of 25 years after a boycott threat over his $1,000 donation in support of the measure. In Los Angeles, a Mexican restaurant owner, a Mormon who donated $100, was reduced to tears and left town after hundreds of protesters confronted her at work, by phone and on the Internet.