The second week of gay marriage on trial, the federal case challenging California’s Proposition 8, opened Tuesday with San Diego’s mayor as the star witness.
Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican, testified he now supports gay marriage, saying his views evolved after learning one of his daughters was a lesbian who wanted to marry her partner.
Sanders said he “came very close to making a very bad decision that would effect hundreds of thousands of people” when he almost vetoed a San Diego city council resolution in 2007 to support San Francisco’s pro gay-marriage stance.
“I think the decisions I made were grounded in prejudice,” Sanders testified. “I was discriminating even against my own daughter.”
A declared supported of “civil unions as a reasonable alternative to same-sex marriage,” Sanders surprised many of his conservative supporters in a tearful announcement December 2007 that he was reversing his position and publically coming out in support of same-sex marriage.
Sanders testified that “if government tolerates discrimination against anyone for any reason, it becomes an excuse for the public to do the same thing.”
Also on the witness stand Tuesday, Lee Badgett, a University of Massachusetts professor and plaintiffs expert, who outlines conclusions she’s reached on Proposition 8’s impact in California, including a “substantial economic harm” to same-sex couples denied the right to marry, as well as damage to California’s overall economy.
Badgett said research shows domestic partnerships and civil unions are not an adequate substitute to marriage, telling Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, there is “very clear evidence that many people would marry but would not become domestic partners.”
Badgett also testifies that research refutes the argument that same-sex marriage damages traditional heterosexual marriage, saying “there is no evidence of any harmful effect” in allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Prop. 8 lawyer Charles Cooper spent the better part of the day challenging Badgett’s assumptions that domestic partnership laws offer lesser protections and rights to same-sex couples, continually pressing her on her support for gay marriage.
Enduring several hours of cross-examination, at one point Badgett shot back, “Based on my research I think it’s good for people and doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
The trial to overturn the November 2008 voter-approved ban on gay Marriage resumes Wednesday morning with the testimony of Ryan Kendall, a gay man who is expected to recount going through “conversion therapy” in his youth.
Plaintiffs lawyers have indicated they may finish presenting their case Wednesday, and not have not yet indicated whether they intend to call any leaders of the Prop. 8 campaign.
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