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Prop. 8 foes tell court why they see measure as unconstitutional

Challengers of the ban on gay marriage conclude two weeks of testimony, calling multiple witnesses to define homosexuality, marriage and the role religion has played in prejudice.

January 24, 2010|By Maura Dolan

Campaign lawyers said several witnesses insisted on being withdrawn for fear of being harassed if their testimony was broadcast. Lawyers for the challengers implied that the witnesses were withdrawn because they made statements harmful to Proposition 8 during their deposition.

The testimony that appeared to most transfix the plaintiffs and other gays and lesbians in the courtroom came from Columbia University professor Ilan H. Meyer, who said discrimination has made gays more vulnerable to mood disorders and suicide. One gay man whispered afterward that he felt he had just spent hours in psychoanalysis.

"A gay couple has to monitor their behavior, such as holding hands, because someone can throw something at them even on a safe street," Meyer testified. "Concealment," he added, "may be stressful because you have to work hard on it. If you are lying, you have to work to keep lying. It's very hard."

Attorneys for the challengers also have tried to show that sexual orientation is core to an individual and not subject to change. One of the challengers, Sandra B. Stier, previously was married to a man. Olson asked her how she knew she was gay if she had lived with a husband.

"I've only been in love once," she testified, referring to her partner, Kristin M. Perry. "I'm 47. I know."

UC Davis psychology professor Greg Herek testified that most gays and lesbians do not choose their orientations. "My research shows that people, when asked, say they have experienced no choice or very little choice," Herek testified.

But lawyers defending Proposition 8 have elicited admissions from Herek and other witnesses that some people who call themselves gay have had sexual experiences with members of the opposite sex and that many people who identify themselves as heterosexual have had sex with their own gender.

Under cross-examination, Herek said most people who call themselves heterosexual have opposite-sex attraction and most people who call themselves gay have same-sex attraction. "But there could be some overlap," he admitted.

Defenders of Proposition 8 intended to call at least two witnesses. One is expected to testify that gays and lesbians have strong political power and the other to talk about the value of opposite-sex marriage in child rearing.

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