SAN FRANCISCO — A congressional report in 1950 supporting firing gays said "one homosexual can pollute an entire office."
A popular magazine carried an article about homosexuality that year titled "The New Moral Menace to Our Youth."
A historian who testified for the Proposition 8 challenge in federal court Tuesday cited those examples and others as evidence that the November 2008 ballot measure barring gay marriage in California continued a long U.S. history of discrimination against gays.
Yale historian George Chauncey, testifying in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, also quoted singer Anita Bryant during a campaign in Dade County, Fla., to repeal a local anti-discrimination ordinance favored by gays: "Some of the stories I could tell you about child recruitment and child abuse by homosexuals would turn your stomach."
Andy Pugno, a Folsom attorney and member of the Proposition 8 defense team, told the media following Chauncey's testimony that his narrative of gay oppression in U.S. history was "interesting" but "utterly irrelevant."
He said comparing Proposition 8 to violent attacks or harsh examples of past discrimination was "despicable."
Gay plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which amended California's Constitution to declare that marriage is only between a man and a woman, saying that it codifies unequal treatment and violates their federal constitutional rights.
Although the California Supreme Court had previously ruled in May 2008 that gays had a right to marry – and thousands did – a year later the high court sided with voters' right to change the state constitution.
To bolster their federal challenge, gay plaintiffs are trying to build a case that gays merit federal protection in asserting their right to marry by showing that they have long suffered discrimination and damaging stereotypes.
Chauncey said he saw "an echo" of that history in Proposition 8 ads, including one prominent TV commercial aired in court that showed a little girl, home from school, telling her mother that she had learned – in the wake of gay marriage rights – that "I can marry a princess."
Chauncey said such messages are based on softer versions of historic portrayals of gay people as inherent child molesters and "recruiters" who would turn heterosexual children into homosexuals.
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