Gay couples share effects of marriage ban during Prop 8 trial

SAN FRANCISCO — Kristin Perry testified that she feels discrimination "every day."

Sandra Stier, her partner, said she was "sickened" by television ads she felt suggested she posed a threat to children because she is lesbian.

All four gay plaintiffs took the stand Monday on the opening day of a historic federal trial over gay marriage, describing in personal terms the emotions they experienced as they came out, formed relationships and were barred from obtaining marriage licenses in California.

The trial over Proposition 8, the November 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage in California, could last two weeks in U.S. District Court in San Francisco before presiding Chief Judge Vaughn Walker. The verdict could be appealed to a higher court, but evidence established could serve as a foundation for decisions determining the future of gay marriage rights in America.

Walker began by peppering lawyers from both sides with questions.

He asked lawyers challenging the initiative whether taking the government out of issuing marriage licenses altogether wouldn't dissolve the conflict. He questioned what "disabilities" gays suffer from not being allowed to marry, and why registering as domestic partners is not an acceptable alternative.

He said gay people hadn't had the right to marry "very long," and asked whether that "doesn't make a difference."

The judge interrupted Charles Cooper, an attorney defending Proposition 8, pointing out that interracial marriage was once prohibited, and that President Barack Obama's parents couldn't have married in some states.

He questioned Cooper's argument that procreation and rearing children are the primary purposes of marriage, asking if companionship is not another reason to wed.

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