A judge presiding over a same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco heard testimony today from a Stanford University professor who said homosexuals lack political power and from a gay man who said conversion therapy made him suicidal.
Stanford political science professor Gary Segura and Denver resident Ryan Kendall testified on the seventh day of the trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
Walker, who will decide the case without a jury, is conducting the trial on a lawsuit in which two same-sex couples claim that Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, violates their federal constitutional rights.
The trial is the nation’s first federal trial on a U.S. constitutional challenge to restrictions on gay and lesbian marriage. Proposition 8 was enacted by state voters in 2008.
Segura, an expert on the political power or lack of power of minority groups, told the court that in the United States, “Gays and lesbians do not possess a meaningful degree of political power.
“They are not able to protect their basic interests and effectuate them into law,” Segura said.
Segura testified that nationwide, “There is no group in American society that has been targeted in ballot initiatives more than gays and lesbians,” with undocumented immigrants a distant second.
He said measures affecting gay and lesbian rights have been the subject of more than 150 state and local ballot initiatives since the 1970s and that gays and lesbians have lost 70 percent of those votes.
The ballot initiatives include successful measures to restrict same-sex marriage in 33 states, Segura said.
Kendall, who was forced to undergo sexual orientation conversion therapy as a teenager, testified that the therapy caused him to become “a 16-year-old kid who had lost everything” and to feel suicidal.
The testimony of both witnesses is important to the plaintiffs’ claim that gay and lesbian rights should be given the highest standard of legal protection because of a history of discrimination and because homosexuality is an immutable characteristic for most gays and lesbians.
Later in the trial, the sponsors of Proposition 8 plan to present another political science professor who will assert an opposing view that gays and lesbians are politically powerful.