Prop 8 trial centers on California voters motives

A majority of voters stopped same-sex marriage in California simply by casting a ballot for Proposition 8.

This week, when a federal trial resumes in San Francisco, attorneys challenging Proposition 8 will continue building a multi-layered argument that voters' action created an unconstitutional law based on prejudice and unfounded fear about homosexuality.

During the historic trial that began last week in U.S. District Court, attorneys for gay couples tried through opening arguments and witness testimony to show that the government — or the voters — have no rational purpose for excluding gays from a fundamental right such as marriage.

Proposition 8 attorneys, in an equally multifaceted approach, are working to establish that voters did have legitimate reasons to vote to make marriage only between a man and a woman.

"Same-sex marriage is simply too novel an experiment at this stage," and opposition to it doesn't necessarily spring from "ill will" toward gay people, Charles Cooper, one of Proposition 8's attorneys, argued last week in court.

Plaintiffs presented historians, plaintiffs and scholars of psychology whose testimony was intended to support the case for same-sex marriage rights.

Cambridge University psychology professor Michael Lamb testified that children in families with gay parents are no less well off than in families with heterosexual families.

Harvard historian Nancy Cott said interracial marriage prohibitions and legal limits on wives' rights were once defended as vital to the well-being of marriage and children.

George Chauncey, a Yale historian, described how unfounded accusations about gay people were used to justify, during various times in history, laws to purge gays from jobs and jail them. Proposition 8's messages, he said, echoed stereotypes used in the past to sow fear of gays.

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