Prop 8 trial, Day 7: Witnesses counter claims sexual orientation is a choice

by Roger Brigham
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 21, 2010

Testimony about how attempts to force one gay man to change his sexual orientation alienated him from his family and led to thoughts of suicide and the relative political powerlessness of LGBT Californians dominated Wednesday's testimony.

"When i was 13 years old, my parents discovered my journal," Denver police officer Ryan Kendall told U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker. "For the first time I had admitted to myself I was gay and had written that word. My parents flipped out. They were very upset. It was pretty scary the level of their reaction. I remember my mother looking at me and telling me I was going to burn in hell."

Kendall said his parents sent him first to a "Christian therapist" for a few sessions and then to another therapy center for a year and a half to try to help him repress his same-sex attraction and turn straight.

"I was told the goal was to make me heterosexual," Kendall testified.

Did it work?

"No, i was still gay," he said. "I didn't think it was possible. I knew I was gay just like I'm half Hispanic. My home life had changed a lot. It was like night and day. Before this I had parents who would write me notes and make me lunch. Then they were verbally abusive, calling me names. My mother would tell me she hated me or that I was disgusting or I was repulsive. Once she told me she wished she had an abortion. She told me she wished I had Downs Syndrome or had been mentally retarded."

Kendall said he eventually he "reconciled my faith with my identity, but the therapy played no role in that."

At the age of 16 he left his family and entered the care of the Colorado Springs Human Services Department. He struggled to hold onto jobs or stay in school, flirted with drugs and had suicidal thoughts before finally being able to settle down after several years.

During cross-examination by the Proposition 8 proponents, who are arguing as part of their case sexual identity is a choice that can be changed, Kendall conceded he had never believed the therapy could work and had not willingly entered it. Asked is he knew of anyone who said therapy had successfully "converted" them, Kendall said, "in public, yes." On re-direct he explained that in one group therapy session, the therapist trotted out his "perfect patient" who said he had turned straight.

After the therapist left the room, however, "he told me he was going to a gay bar afterward and was just pretending to be straight."

"This just confirmed this was not going to be effective for me," Kendall said.

Gary Segura, a professor of American politics at Stanford University, took the stand after Kendall.The Prop 8 challengers had called him to refute defense claims gays and lesbians are so politically powerful they do not need the protection of the courts normally provided to minorities who face discrimination.

"Gays and lesbians do not possess a meaningful degree of political power and are politically vulnerable," Segura said. "They are subject to political exclusion and suffer political disabilities greater than other groups that have received suspect class protection."

Segura's testimony was a minefield of statistics and pithy sound bites

On the danger of confusing a legislative protection for gays with gay political power: "I'm a New Orleans Saints fan," he said. "There are a number of other New Orleans Saints fans. I don't have power over them; we just happen to agree on something."

Segura further discussed the political vulnerability of LGBT people.

"Heterosexuals have essentially held power forever," he said.

Segura said gays hailed the election of Houston's first lesbian mayor, but other factors actually pushed her election and because the city had previously outlawed domestic partner benefits; her job did not come with health care benefits for her partner of 19 years.

The federal hate crimes bill passage was the result of 20 years of lobbying, but Segura said it passed only because it was tacked on as a rider to the military defense spending authorization. In most states and municipalities, he noted, voters can easily overturn laws passed by legislatures, as was done with Prop 8. He said nationally in the past 150 votes on gay and lesbian protections or rights, they lost 70 percent of the time.

Hate crime bills and other legislation is an attempt to redress wrongs most of the population does not need to worry about, not a real indication of political clout.

"There is no group in American society --and I would include illegal aliens as a close second--that has been targeted more by ballot initiative then gay land lesbian Americans," Segura said. "The initiative process has been the Waterloo of gay and lesbian politics."

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.


  • , 2010-01-21 09:31:02

    I would agree that homosexuality is NOT a choice individuals can make, but clearly illegal aliens intentionally and arrogantly make that choice every day. To compare irrational discrimination towards homosexuals with perfectly rational and justified anger at politicians for their failure enforce our immigration laws is contemptable

  • , 2010-01-21 12:16:42

    WTF does immigration have to do with this??? Have you ever been in "refugee" status?? what were your ancestors doing when they fled Europe?? what an @$$hole!

  • , 2010-01-23 11:18:17

    I wonder if this person also think immigrants are arrogant for being gay and not being allowed resident status to be with their partner of 10 years. These immigrants make the same choice that everyone else does, love. Yes it’s intentional, but arrogant? I don’t think so!

  • curiousnrg, 2010-01-23 11:54:29

    TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN GENETIC SEXUAL DIVERSITY There are two types of sexual human beings: heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals. Heterosexuals are defined as the set of XX-XY progeny-producing pairs; non-heterosexuals include everybody else. You are one or the other, but you cannot be both. You are at some point on a continuum that stretches from one extreme to the other. The source of such a non-uniformly distributed range of phenotypic expression lies in the deoxyribonucleic acid molecule (DNA), a plastic molecule capable of spontaneous mutation and responsible for all living things as you know them. Living organisms (including humans) of whatever complexity arise from an evolutionary-derived genetic substrate. This genetic, mutational substrate is capable of producing an infinite number of human phenotypic expressions. Human phenotypes are finished products of the human DNA blueprint, one of which is sexual expression. Non-heterosexual rights is clearly a civil rights issue! There is no natural right to heterosexual supremacy. We are dealing with genetically-induced phenomena. Should we reinvent the wheel and begin again with a Supreme Court declaration of separate but equal status? I think not. If I may continue to ramble. Nature has no purpose; only consequences. Thrusting a planet into Newtonian space will cause that planet to follow a straight course...unless acted upon by another force. Consequently, Earth revolves around the sun because the sun’s gravitational field pulls it. Throw a ball into the air and, consequently, it returns toward Earth because another force, Earth’s gravity, draws upon it. The consequence of a scaled range of human reproductive success (ranging from heterosexual to non-heterosexual phenotypes) is the convergence of the gene pool. This occurs because if you subtract a clinically significant percentage of genetic diversity from independent assortment mechanisms, the genetic pool will have less variability with each generation of newborns. As a consequence, discrete genetic material (genes) is removed from recombination opportunities. The genetic pool is restricted in potential variations because gene combinations and permutations are lacking. Subsequently, combinations and variations of genetic expressions are unavailable. Speciation (species is defined as an interbreeding population) to novel life forms fails to occur. The consequence of a converged gene pool is obstruction to human speciation as the universe unfolds in space and time. So, it must follow that a portion of humanity is repository of non-recombining DNA segments that are culled away from mechanisms of independent assortment. These fragmented human DNA islands are deprived of participation in genetic exchange processes. Consequently, they are isolated from contributory global genetic patrimony. Non-participating genes cause humans to arrive at the cusp of species differentiation but never quite cross the threshold of speciation to newer life forms. We do have races of mankind, but not a different species of man. Non-lethal mutations of DNA are retained in human progeny and become inbred in the human population. The net effect of a converged gene pool is that humans are the end of an evolutionary line. There are many races, but only one species. And that will remain so. No other new human species will arise because the genetic pool is unable to expand due to genetic mechanisms inherent in human DNA and the phenotypic expressions arising from them. Despite many isolating factors such as (1) the prehistoric migration of the human species throughout the world, (2) prolonged remote isolation of the human races (geographical barriers, cataclysmic phenomena, natural disasters, etc.), (3) deoxyribonucleic acid mutations, and (4) substantially elapsed periods of time (all the ingredients of speciation), no other human species has evolved, nor will. Non-heterosexual humans are the gatekeepers of speciation, and the gate is genetically locked. There is no key! Therefore, humans can no more speciate than can religions suspend the laws of nature. This phenomenon of species containment and genetic non-differentiation is intimately connected to heterosexual and non-heterosexual biologically-predetermined behavior. If the evolution of humans has halted, then strategies to evoke desirable human qualities may be proposed. Only selective breeding and assortative mating can cluster desirable (or undesirable) genetic characteristics. Homogenization of the human races, as is the current trend, may produce a genetically more robust human species. Selecting out superior genetic characteristics from the convergent gene pool may succeed to produce a healthier human species. Superior human qualities may be promoted via public policies that are socially desirable and acceptable. One conceivable socially approved method is global competition among all individuals in the economic and educational arenas. This will select out desirable traits from those who are healthy, wealthy, and wise. But manipulated selection that arises from a system of universal competition will not benefit everyone equally! E A Mortarelli

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