The federal trial to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that reinstated a California ban on same-sex marriage, entered its third day of testimony Wednesday, with a focus on the similarities and differences between homosexual and heterosexual couples, with a psychology professor citing “remarkable similarities.”
Letitia Peplau, an expert on couple relationships, testified that studies have found that the quality of heterosexual and homosexual relationships was on average “the same” as measured by closeness, love and stability.
“On average, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples are indistinguishable,” said Peplau, a UCLA professor of social psychology called by attorneys for the two same-sex couples challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8.
During cross-examination, Nicole J. Moss, an attorney for the Proposition 8 campaign, tried to challenge Peplau’s contention that heterosexual and homosexual couples are extremely similar.
She suggested that one benefit of marriage is that couples do not have children out of wedlock, asking Peplau if she agreed that gay men and lesbians do not have children accidentally — to which she responded, “Can two lesbians spontaneously impregnate each other? Not to my knowledge, no.” The courtroom filled with laughter.
Earlier in the day, Prop. 8 attorney David Thompson recounted numerous examples of societal progress, noting that medical organizations stopped classifying homosexuality as a disorder 35 years ago, and that federal agencies and most large companies ban job discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Once-hostile media images have been replaced by sympathetic portrayals in such productions as the movie “Brokeback Mountain” and the TV show “Will & Grace,” Thompson said. Labor unions, a “growing number of churches” and many political leaders support gay rights, he added.
Under cross examination, Yale history Professor George Chauncey, who testified Tuesday, replied that gays and lesbians have gained greater acceptance but “continue to encounter tremendous hostility.”
Under re-direct, plaintiff’s attorneys sought to illustrate that hostility by playing a video of their December 1 pretrial of William Tam, a San Francisco chemical engineer and activist who was one of the ballot measure’s official proponents, and by presenting a letter which Tam authored during the Prop 8 campaign.
In the letter, Tam, who organized rallies and raised money for the measure, warned that if same-sex marriage remained legal, “other states would fall into Satan’s hand.”
San Francisco’s government, already “under the rule of homosexuals,” would move next to legalize sex with children and prostitution, Tam said.
Concluded Chauncey, “This is consistent in tone with a much larger history of anti-gay rhetoric.”
Last week, Tam asked to be let out of the case as a defendant citing concerns of threats and harassment from same-sex marriage advocates. Judge Vaughn R. Walker, presiding over the non-jury trial, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, has yet to rule on that request. Plaintiffs are expected to call Tam as a witness on Friday.
And midway through the day Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against broadcasting the trial, rejecting Walker’s attempt to stream the proceedings for viewing at various federal courthouses around the West, and offer for delayed broadcast on the court’s YouTube channel.
An excellent recap and timeline of Day 3 can be found at the San Jose Mercury News.