The federal case challenging California’s Proposition 8 wrapped up it’s seventh day Wednesday, with plaintiff’s attorneys producing documents showing close ties between the Mormon church and the Prop. 8 campaign, and one expert witness asserting that President Obama is “not a reliable ally” for gays and lesbians.
First on the witness stand Wednesday was Ryan Kendall, who testified on being forced to undergo “conversion therapy” as a youth.
The plaintiffs put Kendall on the stand as part of an effort to show that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice, as argued by opponents of gay marriage.
Growing up in the largely conservative city of Colorado Springs, Kendall said he knew he was different and that he “liked boys” from an early age, but it wasn’t until he looked up the word “homosexual” in the dictionary at age 11 that he realized he was gay.
Kendall, now 26, testified he was treated harshly by his parents when they discovered he was gay at around the age of 13.
“I remember my mother looking at me and saying I was going to burn in Hell,” he said. It was shocking because I never thought my parents would ever say that. I mean, Hell was the worst.”
Kendall was first sent to a Christian therapist for “reversal therapy” at the age of 13, and then to the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in Encino. Kendall was sent there between the ages of 14 and 16, but abandoned it because he was suicidal.
Asked whether the therapy made any difference, Kendall replied: “No, I was as gay as when I started.”
The plaintiffs next witness, Gary Segura, a Stanford University professor of American politics, testified that ballot measures, state and federal laws, hate crime statistics and opinion polls are evidence that gays and lesbians, like racial minorities, need judicial protection from discrimination.
“Gays and lesbians do not possess a meaningful degree of political power. They are not able to protect their essential interests,” said Segura, adding that President Obama has not lived up to his campaign promises to overturn laws denying federal benefits to same-sex couples and allowing the military to discharge openly gay service members.
Segura cited the Obama administration’s refusal to allow a female attorney with the federal appeals court in San Francisco, Karen Golinski, to cover her wife in her health insurance policy, despite an order from the court’s chief judge.
“This is not a reliable ally,” Segura said of Obama. “We have to look at the disconnect between rhetoric and action.”
Perhaps the most startling evidence revealed in the courtroom Wednesday were pro-Prop 8 documents and emails illustrating the Catholic and Mormon churches played a major role in passing Proposition 8.
One document between the Mormon Church and the Prop 8 campaign shows the church intentionally worked to disguise their involvement in the campaign:
“With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved.”
A memo by a Mormon Church public affairs officer said the Proposition 8 campaign was “entirely under priesthood direction,” and the minutes of a Mormon Church meeting said members should not take the lead in promoting Proposition 8, but should work through Protectmarriage.com.
And one email 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 e-mail also praised the Mormon Church, saying it had provided “financial, organizational and management contributions” for the measure.
The trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, seeking to overturn the voter-approved ban on gay marriage, is being presided over by Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walher in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Attorney David Boies indicated the plaintiffs intend to call two more witnesses, including controversial Prop. 8 proponent William Tam.