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A same-sex marriage trial continued in federal court in San Francisco today with cross-examination of a defense witness who admitted that religion was a critical factor in the passage of the Proposition 8.

Kenneth Miller, an assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, returned to the stand at a trial in which two same-sex couples claim Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, violates their federal constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is hearing the case, in its 11th day of trial today, without a jury.

Miller was called as a witness Monday by lawyers for the sponsors of Proposition 8 to testify about the political power of gays and lesbians in California.

The testimony was aimed at refuting the plaintiffs’ argument that homosexual rights are entitled to the highest level of court protection because gays lack political power and have suffered discrimination.

Miller said Monday that gays in California have access to many “key determinants of political power,” including money-raising ability and alliances with political leaders, religious groups and unions.

During cross-examination this morning, plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies homed in on the claim that churches allied with gay advocates in opposing Proposition 8.

Boies’ questioning was aimed at bolstering another plaintiff argument, a claim that the Proposition 8 campaign in 2008 was illegally motivated by prejudice and moral disapproval of homosexuals.

In answer to the queries, Miller agreed that while some churches opposed Proposition 8, the state’s largest religious groups, including the Catholic Church and evangelical groups, supported the initiative and that the Mormon Church also played an important role.

He acknowledged he wrote in a scholarly article in 2009 that religion “was critical in determining voter attitude toward Proposition 8.”

Miller also acknowledged writing, “Churches and religious organizations supplied most of Proposition 8’s institutional support, with Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons leading the way.”

Proposition 8 sponsors contend the ballot initiative is constitutional because it was not motivated by prejudice and is a reasonable way of preserving the traditional definition of marriage and promoting children’s welfare.

At the end of Miller’s testimony this morning, Proposition 8 attorney David Thompson asked him to compare that initiative with other ballot measures that sought to limit gay rights.

Miller answered, “Marriage is a different situation and the people should be able to have input on the definition of marriage. It isn’t necessarily invidious discrimination against a minority group.”

Walker leaned over from the bench and asked whether it is ever appropriate for the judiciary to intervene in the initiative process.

Miller answered, “When there’s a well-grounded constitutional principle that is violated.”

The initiatives sponsors’ second expert witness, David Blankenhorn of the New York-based Institute for American Values, began testifying in early afternoon.

The testimony portion of the trial may end today. Walker has announced he will hear closing arguments at a later date after studying the evidence.

see transcripts from every day of the trial here

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