Reporting from San Francisco — A political scientist hired by defenders of Proposition 8 testified at a federal trial Monday that gays have accumulated substantial political power in recent years, though he admitted that stereotyping and discrimination persist.
Claremont McKenna College professor Kenneth P. Miller, the first witness for defenders of Proposition 8, was called to the stand to rebut a plaintiff's expert who testified that gays were politically powerless. The question of power is part of the legal analysis over whether gays need stronger constitutional protection.
Under cross-examination by David Boies, Miller acknowledged that the Democratic Party, unions and corporations that he testified were allies of gays also support the rights of other minorities.
Miller refused Boies' attempts to get him to say whether gays today suffer more discrimination than African Americans and women, categories that are strongly protected under the law.
Could he at least compare lesbians to heterosexual women? Boies asked. Miller responded that lesbians face greater bias than straight women.
Miller's direct testimony portrayed California's approval of marriage initiatives as exceptions to the state's traditional support for gay and lesbian causes. The professor testified that three past ballot initiatives opposed by gays and lesbians, including one to quarantine those infected with HIV, have failed overwhelmingly.
Asked by Boies to provide examples of official discrimination against gays, Miller mentioned a federal law banning openly gay soldiers in the military.
Under further questioning, Miller cited a federal law that defines marriage as an opposite-sex union, as well as Proposition 8.
"Looking at the institution of marriage, the state does treat heterosexual couples differently than same-sex couples," Miller conceded. But he said he did not know whether it amounted to illegal discrimination.
Miller took the stand after plaintiffs rested in the third week over the federal constitutional challenge of the 2008 ballot measure.
Prior to his testimony, attorneys for two same-sex couples introduced videos produced by Proposition 8 supporters warning that same-sex marriage could lead to incest and other social ills.
The official Proposition 8 campaign paid for satellite transmission of the videos to churches in California.
Challengers believe the simulcasts show that Proposition 8 was motivated by prejudice, which would make it invalid under the law.
A woman, speaking in one of the simulcasts, warned that same-sex marriage would lead to incest and polygamy.
"Then pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds," she predicted. "The man from Massachusetts who petitioned to marry his horse after [gay] marriage was instituted in Massachusetts -- he'd have to be allowed to do so. Mothers and sons, sisters and brothers, any, any combination would have to be allowed."
An African American expressed irritation with comparisons of bias against gays to racial discrimination, noting that people were comparing "my skin to their sin." The simulcast also showed pictures of men kissing each other.