A Stanford professor who said homosexuals lack political power and a gay man who said conversion therapy made him suicidal took the stand at a same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco Wednesday.
Stanford political science professor Gary Segura and Denver resident Ryan Kendall testified on behalf of two same-sex couples on the seventh day of the trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
The couples claim in a civil rights lawsuit that California's ban on same-sex marriage, enacted by voters as Proposition 8 in 2008, violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
The case, which will be decided by Walker without a jury, is the nation's first federal trial on a U.S. constitutional challenge to
restrictions on gay marriage.
Segura, an expert on the political power or lack of power of minority groups, told Walker that in the United States, "Gays and lesbians do not possess a meaningful degree of political power.
Kendall, 26, testified that sexual orientation conversion therapy his parents forced him to undergo as a teenager made him "a 16-year-old kid who had lost everything" and caused him to feel suicidal, but didn't change his homosexuality.
Both witnesses' testimony bears on the plaintiffs' claim that gay rights deserve the highest level of legal protection because homosexuals lack political power and have suffered discrimination on the basis of a characteristic -- their sexual orientation - that most of them cannot change.
The sponsors of Proposition 8 and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, who are defending the initiative at the trial, contend that gays and lesbians are now politically powerful and that "many people freely choose their sexual orientation."
Later in the trial, the Proposition 8 sponsors will present their own witness, assistant government professor Kenneth Miller of Claremont McKenna College, to assert the view that gays and lesbians have political power.
Today's court session in Walker's Federal Building courtroom will begin with continued cross-examination of Segura.
The federal trial on same-sex marriage moved into its second week in San Francisco Tuesday with testimony from the mayor of San Diego on why he supports gay and lesbian marriage.
Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican, testified that he initially opposed same-sex marriage but changed his views after learning that one of his daughters is a lesbian who wanted to marry her partner.
"I believe the government should allow everyone to get married in exactly the same way," Sanders said.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is the first federal trial in the nation on a challenge under the U.S. Constitution to a ban on same-sex marriage.
A lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank claim in a civil rights lawsuit that California's ban, enacted by voters in 2008 as Proposition 8, violates their rights to due process and equal treatment.
Walker will decide the case without a jury.
Sanders was questioned by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. The city of San Francisco was allowed to join the case on the side of the same-sex couples to support their claims that denial of marriage is costly to local governments.
Sanders testified that he believes Proposition 8 and similar laws have discriminatory intent.
He said the laws have the effect of saying, "We don't think that you folks have the same type of relationship or love each other as much, so we're not going to allow you to be married."
During cross-examination, Brian Raum, a lawyer for Proposition 8 sponsors, showed a 2008 campaign television advertisement that alleged that same-sex marriage advocates stole campaign signs, defaced a church and assaulted Proposition 8 donors.
Sanders said he doesn't condone violence, and that he doesn't have firsthand information about the allegations in the video.