Court witnesses arguing against California’s Proposition 8 have described religious beliefs of those who believe marriage is between a man and a woman as biased and a “chief obstacle” to homosexuals’ “political progress.” The comments were part of a “troubling” attack on religion, Proposition 8 defenders say.
Proposition 8, the successful 2008 California ballot issue that restored to state law the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a wife, is being challenged in federal court by opponents who claim it is unconstitutional.
On Wednesday one plaintiff witness was Gary Segura, a Stanford University political science professor who specializes in the political power of minorities, including homosexuals.
Segura said that religion is “the chief obstacle for gays’ and lesbians’ political progress.”
“It's difficult to think of a more powerful social entity in American society than the church,” he commented, according to a transcript of the trial.
Segura noted that America is a very churchgoing nation and religion provides an opportunity for people to meet together on a weekly basis. In his view, religious groups are “arrayed against the interests of gays and lesbians.”
He said that the biblical condemnation of homosexuality and the teaching that gays are “morally inferior” affects a “huge percentage” of the public. This makes the political ground “very hostile to gay interests.”
Asked to explain his understanding of an earlier witness, Dr. Young, he said Young “freely admits that religious hostility to homosexuals is an important role in creating a social climate that's conducive to hateful acts, to opposition to their interest in the public sphere, and to prejudice and discrimination.”
Andrew Pugno, general counsel for Prop. 8 backer ProtectMarriage.com, responded to Segura’s testimony in a Wednesday statement.
He said Segura offered “a serious and troubling line of attack against people of faith.”
“Today, religion has taken the stage, front and center, in the battle over the constitutionality of Prop. 8 and is being portrayed as an illegitimate basis for supporting traditional marriage. Religious bigotry surely found expression in today’s presentation by the plaintiffs,” he charged.
“To suggest that the people of California cannot consider their own political, moral and religious views when casting their vote on Prop. 8 is preposterous,” Pugno continued, adding that many issues are presented to voters that involve moral questions.
“The plaintiffs put the role of religion clearly in their cross hairs and are likely to fire away at the legitimacy of religious and moral views, as well as the votes and voices of those who hold them.”
On Thursday the Prop. 8 defense team asked Segura about assaults and death threats against supporters of the measure.
According to the Washington Post, Segura said that organized violence or broad disorderly behavior certainly has a negative impact on the homosexual rights movement. In his view, such behavior is "a cry for help or expression of frustration or maybe the ultimate expression of powerlessness."
Other opponents of Prop. 8 have attacked Christian sexual ethics during the trial.
On Jan. 13, San Francisco city attorney Therese Stewart asked Yale history professor George Chauncey to read official doctrinal statements from the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. According to Jordan Lorence, senior council for the Prop. 8 defender Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the statements “generally restated what the Bible says about the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.”
“Professor Chauncey said those doctrinal statements reflect historic bias against those who engage in homosexual behavior,” Lorence continued in a report at the ADF website. “It’s not hard to figure out what is so frightening about an attempt in federal court to attack and delegitimize the views of the two largest Christian denominations in America.”
Lorence claimed that the testimony was further proof that the trial is about “much more” than the personal relationships and feelings of those in same-sex relationships.
“It is about imposing a different and intolerant ‘morality’ on America and eradicating opposing ideas,” he charged.