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Prop 8 Trial: Day 9 Recap & Day 10 Preview

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The case against Prop 8, which banned gay marriage in California, continues today in a federal district court. The plaintiffs (pro gay marriage) are expected to rest their case with documents and videos that reinforce points made during the first two weeks of trial. As for Friday, here's what happened and what each side is saying, per the plaintiff legal team and the defendants:

  • From the Plaintiffs (e-mail): "Taking the stand on Friday was Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D. a Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis. He testified about the nature of sexual orientation; that mainstream mental health professionals and behavioral scientists do not regard homosexuality as an illness or disorder, and that "change therapies" have been scientifically discounted, and can be extremely harmful. He endured more than five hours of cross examination without wavering from his testimony."
  • From the Defendants (blog): "Initially, Herek gave his professional opinion that sexual orientation is an unchangeable trait for gays and lesbians... However, under hours of piercing cross examination by Prop 8 defense attorney Howard Neilson, Jr., Herek admitted that the evidence that homosexuality is genetically wired is “weak,” that “we don’t understand or know the origin of sexual orientation in men or women,” and that “no one knows what causes homosexuality.” In fact, he said there are at least 3 different ways of defining sexual orientation, and conceded that there is actually no scientifically unambiguous definition of homosexuality. He also explained that the number of categories of sexual orientation (straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc.) has expanded and continues to grow as certain groups find new ways to describe their sexual orientation.
  • From the Plaintiffs: "He also testified about the stigma and prejudice that gay men and lesbians face; the harm to gay men and lesbians and their families caused by Prop. 8; and how domestic partnerships are inferior to marriage and are linked with the stigma gay men and lesbians face."
  • From the Defendants (e-mail): "From the trial’s start, it has been the responsibility of the plaintiffs to prove their case. But rather than address the initial complaint - a very weak argument of 'equal protection' based on a very creative interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution - the trial has been about feelings. The plaintiffs’ case seems to boil down to one recurring theme: limiting marriage to only a man and a woman hurts the feelings of homosexuals. One of their expert witnesses even explained how he measures things on a “feeling thermometer.” Here is an article from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders titled, “Federal court has become the new feelings forum.” Saunders notes, 'Forget the law…feelings rule.'"
  • From the Plaintiffs (e-mail): "Olson and Boies also showed Dr. Herek the deposition testimony of defendants' expert Daniel Robinson, one of the four expert witnesses dropped from their witness list. Robinson, like the three other experts dropped from their list, made statements damaging to the defendants' case and in support of the plaintiffs during his deposition, as was shown in court this week. For, example, the defendants' experts stated that equal marriage would increase family stability and improve the lives of children; that sexual orientation is not something that can be readily changed; and that gay men and lesbians have faced a long history of discrimination including violence - discrimination that continues today and that includes Prop. 8. They also acknowledge broad scientific and professional consensus in favor of equal marriage."