judge david young speaks

images4Syndicated court show host David Young made history as the first out TV jurist. A former County and Circuit Court Judge in Miami/Dade County, Young became national news during a high-profile case in May, 2005, when he sentenced two America West airline pilots to jail for attempting to operate a plane while intoxicated. Young lives in Florida with his partner of 12 years, Judge Scott Bernstein. I talked to Young last week about his take on what’s been going on over the past few weeks.

There has been so much discussion about California and Proposition 8, but there was also Amendment 2 in Florida. Why hasn’t it gotten the same attention?

I suspect that hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention because you can actually get married in California. In Florida we have never had marriage, we had some municipalities having domestic partnerships, but this was a campaign solely run to prevent what happened in California from happening in Florida.

What happened to all those Florida domestic partnerships thanks to Amendment 2?

images-11The amendment was very clear, saying we are only going to recognize unions between a man and a woman. So that would mean the domestic partnerships in Miami/Dade County, which opened domestic partnerships in several municipalities like Wilton Manors, are all null and void. Not that it had much legal standing anyway, it was just making people feel good, since the state never recognized same-sex couples in a formal way and the Federal government certainly doesn’t, so there were no major rights accorded to us.

Are you surprised to see this reaction that has coming out of the Prop 8 vote? What’s your take on what’s been going on over the last couple weeks?

I am disappointed in the type of campaign they ran in Miami and California. The issue is one of discrimination, and are we going to legalize discrimination? People voted yes, and I think they voted yes because they didn’t understand the gravity of what they were voting on.  If we learned anything from the election of Barack Obama is politics needs to be grass roots. You need to go out into the community and educate people and talk to people. Who knew Barack Obama a year and a half ago? No one did. But by hard work and by speaking and by listening, they were able to launch a campaign that has never been seen in the history of our country.  The people against Prop 8 and against Amendment 2 just didn’t learn that lesson, and that’s why they lost.

The good news for California is this clearly is a revision of the California Constitution, which required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.  And that was not met. I think Prop 8 is going to declared null and void and I think it is going to go back to the way it was, and I’m pretty confident about that. Florida is a different story, because it is going to take re-amending the Florida Constitution with 60 percent of the vote in order to change what the voters have done, unless the court knocks that out, and I don’t see that happening.

Do you think adoption amendments will be the next series of amendments to start popping up around the country?

Shame on anyone who voted for that, shame on anyone who would deprive gay and lesbians and loving people the right to adopt children. I sat as a judge in juvenile court. I’ve seen what it was like for children to be abused, abandoned and neglected by their parents, and here you have people who would be wonderful parents, whose only crime that they would ever commit to a child is give them too much Dolce and Gabbana!

One of my cases involved a child who was in a foster home given up for adoption by the parents. He went to one foster home where the mother dies, he went to another foster home and was abused, and he was never given the love and the guidance that a child needs and thrives for. For them to say gay people can’t do that, or lesbians, or single people as they did in Arkansas, then shame on them. The argument is absolutely ridiculous.

There’s a bit of a debate going on here in California. Was it right not to show gay couples on TV ads because the 20 percent of the movable middle you need to reach don’t want to see gay couples on television? Or should ads have been more open about showing gay and lesbian families?

I think the way you win these battles is by dealing with discrimination. If we let people vote back in the civil rights movement vote on whether George Wallace was right, the people in that state would have voted overwhelmingly with George Wallace. That doesn’t make it right. You have to appeal in a political campaign to the constituents who are going to get out and vote. We all knew who was going to get out and vote, we knew the African American community was going to get out and vote and we didn’t go in there and we didn’t do a good enough job in educating them to what the real issues were.

The sixty-second or thirty-second sound bite on television stations just as you have a plethora of other (political) ads being run, you’re not going to get the message across. You really need to go into the churches, you need to go into the neighborhoods, you need to do canvassing. I hope the excitement that the opponents of Proposition 8 have been showing in the last several weeks will take that to education, will take that to activism, and then I think there will be change. I really do. 


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