WARNING:The following story and audio clips contain graphic language.
Two plaintiffs in the high-profile Proposition 8 case were subjected to multiple vitriolic and antigay voice mails during the 2010 trial from a San Francisco man who was later convicted of making threatening telephone calls to then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
According to a 2010 Berkeley, Calif., police department report, Sandra Stier, who with her partner, Kristin Perry, filed suit against Prop. 8 in 2009 along with a Burbank gay male couple, received about 13 harassing messages at their Berkeley home during a two-day period in January at the end of the trial’s testimony phase.
Using an unlisted cell phone with a Newport News, Va., area number, the caller made repeated biblical references to homosexuality as well as antigay slurs. Many of the calls were made in the middle of the night or early-morning hours. Listen to the voice mails below.
A former law enforcement agent who provided audio recordings of the voice mails to The Advocate said the phone number used by the caller matched one revealed in a federal grand jury subpoena involving the investigation of Gregory Lee Giusti, 49. Giusti made at least 48 calls in February and March of 2010 to Pelosi, including calls to her Washington, D.C., residence, one of her Northern California residences, her San Francisco district office, and her husband’s San Francisco office. Giusti used a Magic Jack device in an attempt to conceal the origin of the calls, according to a 2010 affidavit by FBI supervisory special agent Bryan S. Smith.
“You stinkin’ lesbos make me sick,” the caller, identified by multiple sources as Giusti, said in one voice mail to Stier and Perry. “I hope you lose your case. ... Marriage is between one man and one woman only. That’s the way God arranged it, set it up. Two people of the same sex cannot procreate. And no, getting yourself artificially inseminated is not procreation in God’s eyes. Or two faggots can’t procreate no matter how much you want to [expletive] each other.”
In another, Giusti told the couple, who have children, “I think that’s really disgusting that you’re raising, um, kids, I think the law should state lesbos and faggots shouldn’t be around kids. ...
“I hope you enjoy burning in hell, for that’s where you’re going to go when you die, for the Bible clearly states that lesbianism and homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes,” Giusti said. “And you can tell those other faggots doing the case with you that I hope they both die of AIDS.”
Listen to audio from the voicemails below. Story continues on following page.
In December, Giusti — who has previous convictions of making threatening telephone calls and was sentenced to a year in prison in 2004 for threatening to kill a commuter train conductor — was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for making threats to Pelosi. Giusti said in a March 25, 2010, message left on the voice mail of Pelosi’s Washington residence, “If you pass this freaking health care plan, don’t bother coming back to California, ’cause you ain’t gonna have a place to live.”
Sources close to the investigation said that the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which has organized and funded the Prop. 8 suit, worked with local police, the FBI, and a private security firm in response to the harassment of Perry and Stier. FBI special agent Smith interviewed the couple last May, though no further action was taken by the agency (an FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation).
AFER cofounder and board president Chad Griffin declined to comment on the specifics of the phone calls, citing legal and security reasons, but said in a statement, “Unfortunately, harassment and threats are all too commonplace for gay and lesbian Americans. When the government says it’s OK to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, then it gives license to others to do so. Countless families bear the consequences of second-class citizenship. This is unconscionable and cannot stand.”
There’s no evidence from the Berkeley police department report nor in the federal investigation of threats made against Pelosi to suggest that Giusti acted in coordination with other individuals or groups in leaving the abusive voice mails for Perry and Stier.
The issue of harassment, however, was a focal point for Proposition 8 supporters — at the Perry trial and during both the 2008 campaign to pass the California ballot initiative and the nationwide protests that ensued from marriage equality supporters.
“One lesson of the hostility surrounding support for Prop. 8 is that individuals and institutions that publicly defend marriage as the union of husband and wife risk intimidation, harassment, and reprisal — at least some of it targeted and coordinated,” Thomas M. Messner wrote in the 2009 report “The Price of Prop 8” for the Heritage Foundation. The types of the hostilities faced by Prop 8 supporters, he wrote, included “harassment, intimidation, vandalism ... at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry.”
“Because the issue of marriage is still very much alive in California and throughout the nation, the naked animus manifested against people and groups that supported Prop 8 raises serious questions that should concern anyone interested in promoting civil society,” Messner wrote.
During the Prop. 8 trial, attorneys on multiple occasions asked the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses whether gay rights advocates actually contributed to the social inequity faced by LGBT people.
“In terms of the level of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the United States today, you don't know the extent to which it's attributable to aggressive, violent acts that supporters of the LGBT community have taken?” ProtectMarriage.com attorney David Thompson asked George Chauncey, a Yale University professor and expert on LGBT history who testified on history of discrimination faced by gays and lesbians.
“I think that you would have to make a very elaborate case for me to believe that that is the case,” Chauncey said.