Plaintiffs lawyers in the gay marriage
trial taking place in San Francisco wrapped up their case Friday.
After the plaintiff's final witness endured more than 6 hours on the
witness stand, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker told him,
“You win the long distance award.”
University of California at Davis
psychology professor Greg Herek gave a full day of testimony on the
nature of being gay. Davis' UC bio states he is “An
internationally recognized authority on prejudice against lesbians
and gay men, hate crimes and anti-gay violence, and AIDS-related
The trial is the first to challenge the
constitutionality of a gay marriage ban in a federal courtroom.
Specifically, Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban approved by
California voters in 2008.
Lawyers in favor of gay marriage have
argued that proponents of Proposition 8 approved the measure out of
animus towards gay men and lesbians. The defense says limiting
marriage to heterosexual unions fosters a stable environment to raise
The plaintiffs, a gay and a lesbian
couple, each have been denied the right to marry in California
because of Proposition 8. Jeffrey Zarrillo, 36, has testified that
Paul Katami, 37, is the “love of my life.” Sanda Stiers, 47,
said she fell in love with Chris Perry after being married to a man
for 12 years without knowing she was a lesbian. She testified that
she became a plaintiff in the case because she wants to marry Perry.
“I want the discrimination to end and a more joyful part of our
life to begin,” she said.
On Friday, Herek testified that being
gay was most likely not a choice, and that conversion therapy – the
controversial treatment that aims to alter the sexual orientation of
gay men and lesbians – has “very limited” effectiveness and the
potential to harm individuals.
Lawyers arguing for Proposition 8
pressed Herek for an unequivocal definition of what what it means to
be gay. They asked whether sexuality is “clear cut.”
“Do you agree that homosexuality is a
multidimensional phenomenon?” lawyer Howard Nelson Jr. asked at one
“That's what I think I've been saying
for the last few hours,” Herek replied.
Nelson also attempted to suggest that
plaintiffs Stiers and Perry had chosen to be gay. He quoted from
Perry's statement that after realizing she was attracted to other
women, she “adopted that sexual orientation for myself.”
“What she described here is she
experienced this attraction as an enduring pattern, and after
recognizing this pattern in herself, she adopted [the gay
orientation],” Herek responded.
Proponents of Proposition 8 are clearly
hedging their bets on the argument that sexuality can be fluid.
Therefore, gay people have the choice to return to a heterosexual
relationship. The plaintiffs, however, want to move the argument
that being gay is an immutable characteristic – like race – that
deserves legal protection.
Plaintiff's lawyers will likely rest
their case on Monday and turn over the courtroom to the defense.
The defense's portion of the trial will
likely be short. Two-thirds of the defense's original set of expert
witnesses withdrew after Walker green lit a plan to broadcast the
proceedings to other courtrooms and the Internet. Proposition 8
supporters appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which blocked
Judge Walker has said he will hear
closing arguments at a later date, possibly in February. Walker's
schedule shows he is unavailable starting on Wednesday.