News (USA)

Prop 8 trial witness testifies sexual orientation is not a choice

The plaintiffs in the legal challenge over California’s Proposition 8 called their final witness Friday, who testified that homosexuality is an inherent characteristic of gays and lesbians, not a social choice.

Gregory Herek, a University of California-Davis psychology professor, testified that most people don’t choose their sexual orientation, few people change it and “conversion therapy” is useless and potentially harmful.

“Most heterosexual men and women, if they were asked the question and thought about it, would report similarly that they don’t feel they made a choice to be heterosexual,” Herek said.

Herek also said it’s clear that gay men and lesbians are looked down upon and even regarded with disgust because of long-standing social stigmas.

The plaintiffs are seeking to show that homosexuality is an ingrained human characteristic, a factor that should extend constitutional protections to them as a minority group facing discrimination.

Same-sex marriage foes argue that homosexuality is a social choice, not a biological characteristic deserving of the highest legal protections.

Herek spent about an hour testifying for the plaintiffs, but was subsequently subjected to almost six hours of cross examination in an effort to debunk his assertions about the origins of sexual orientation.

Invoking Sigmund Freud and innumerable studies that described sexual orientation as complex and found that people’s sexual identities are often flexible, Prop 8 lawyer Howard Nielson Jr. attempted to show that gays and lesbians opt for their sexual preference at different points in their lives.

But Herek pushed back, saying gays and lesbians typically do not come to terms with their sexual identity until after their youth due to society’s emphasis on heterosexuality.

That, he said, “does not mean they choose their sexuality.”

The second week of the non-jury trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, will resume Monday, and it is expected the plaintiffs will introduce some supporting documents, and then rest their case.

Defense attorneys are expected to call two witnesses next week, concluding testimony in the case.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, presiding over the non-jury trial, has signaled he will examine the evidence for several weeks before scheduling final arguments, sometime in February.

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