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Prop. 8 supporters: Gays lost support with tactics

By LISA LEFF, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gay rights supporters lost public support when they used economic boycotts, vandalism and alleged death threats against backers of California's same-sex marriage ban, lawyers defending the measure argued Thursday.

David Thompson, who is representing Proposition 8 sponsors in a federal trial challenging the ban, presented news coverage of the tactics to counter an assertion by a political scientist that gays are a politically unpopular group facing intense opposition from powerful religious groups and ongoing threats of violence themselves.

"When people read about this on the Internet, would (it) have the potential to diminish political support?" Thompson asked Stanford University professor Gary M. Segura about the tactics of gays. "Politically, it's kryptonite, is that correct?"

Segura answered that he considered boycotts an acceptable political tool, but that "organized violence or even broad disorderly behavior certainly has a negative impact."

He said such behavior could be "a cry for help or expression of frustration or maybe the ultimate expression of powerlessness."

Lawyers for two same-sex couples suing to overturn Proposition 8 are trying to demonstrate that gay Americans lack meaningful political power. The point is central to their contention that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional because they single out a disadvantaged group.

Segura scoffed at Thompson's suggestion that Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote in part because large numbers of voters were turned off by sporadic reports of campaign-related hostilities.

"That the number of individuals this would be true of would come close to the margin for the proposition is ridiculous in the extreme," he said.

Thompson also sought to undercut Segura's earlier testimony that gays faced an unprecedented opponent in a coalition of Mormon, Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian that joined forces to back the 2008 ballot measure.

He produced campaign fliers and other documents showing some churches opposed the ban.

Segura replied that membership in pro-Proposition 8 churches accounts for 34 percent of the U.S. population, while churches that opposed the measure represent less than 2 percent.

Plaintiffs lawyers next plan to call as a hostile witness a Proposition 8 proponent who warned that gay rights activists would try to legalize sex with children if same-sex marriage was not outlawed.

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