Media Continues to Spotlight Testimony in Prop. 8 Case

The federal lawsuit challenging California’s voter-sanctioned ban on marriage for same-sex couples, known as Proposition 8, will finish its second week of hearings today.

Attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, who argue that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional, presented testimony on Wednesday from a 26 year-old openly gay man who was forced by his evangelical Christian family to undergo so-called “reparative therapy,” The Los Angeles Times reported late Wednesday:

Ryan Kendall, 26, who grew up in an evangelical Christian family in Colorado, said his parents forced him to undergo therapy with a Christian group to try to change his sexual orientation. The therapy made him suicidal but did not change his sexuality, he testified.

"I was just as gay as when I started," Kendall testified.

Kendall, a Denver resident, testified tearfully about how his mother abused him after learning of his sexuality from reading his journal. He said he was the target of slurs and his glasses were smashed when he was a student at an evangelical school.

Boies and Olson also presented evidence which suggested that the Catholic and Mormon Churches had close ties to leaders of the anti-gay, “Yes on 8” campaign.

Documents unveiled later revealed the Catholic and Mormon churches played a major role in passing Proposition 8.

An e-mail from the executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the bishops and a cardinal said Catholics were crucial in providing money and volunteers to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Boies and Olson also introduced an e-mail from Mark Jansson, the Mormon church’s representative to the executive committee that oversaw the “Yes on 8 campaign.”  That email indicated that the Mormon church and other faith leaders took the lead in the anti-gay campaign:

This campaign is entirely under (Mormon) priesthood direction in concert with leaders of many other faiths and community groups.

Other testimony on Wednesday included Stanford University Professor Gary M. Segura who testified that gay people do not have a meaningful degree of political power -- as evidenced by, among other things, hate crime statistics, relatively low numbers of gay office holders, and the success rate of anti-gay ballot measures.

On Thursday, anti-gay activist and “Yes on 8” proponent William Tam was called to the stand, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday.

The plaintiffs hope to prove that backers of the Prop. 8 initiative were led by anti-gay bias and unfair stereotypes:

In a message to supporters during the campaign, for example, Tam wrote that “other states would fall into Satan’s hand” if same-sex marriage remained legal in California. San Francisco’s government, “under the rule of homosexuals,” would next move to legalize sex with children and prostitution, he said.

Tam affirmed those statements in a San Francisco federal courtroom Thursday. He said he also believes, based on European nations that have allowed same-sex marriage, that it is a forerunner to legalized incest and polygamy, all signs of “the moral decay of a liberal country.”

According to The Los Angeles Times, when Tam was asked how he had come to such conclusions about gay men and lesbians, he said it was “based on different literature I have read.” Tam, however, was unable to recall where he had read the information.

Boies later asked Tam if he would be frustrated if denied the right to marry:

Boies… noted that Tam, a Chinese American, had described himself as a minority. Boies asked if he would be aggrieved if he were forbidden to marry the person he loved. Tam said yes.

GLAAD will continue to follow the media’s coverage of the Prop. 8 trial. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org

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