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'Brokeback Mountain' becomes issue in Prop. 8 hearing

January 13, 2010 | 10:22 am

A lawyer for the Proposition 8 campaign tried to show today that gays and lesbians now enjoy significant political and public support and have been portrayed positively in such films as "Brokeback Mountain."

David H. Thompson, representing the sponsors of the 2008 ballot initiative, cross-examined George Chauncey, a Yale University history professor who testified Tuesday that there has been a long and dark history of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S.

Thompson got Chauncey to acknowledge that many employers now ban discrimination against gays, the federal government now employs openly gay officials, many churches condemn anti-gay discrimination and the entertainment industry now produces shows that portray gays and lesbians positively.

"The bottom line is that there has been a significant shift in public opinion toward acceptance of gay rights, correct?" Thompson asked during the third day of a federal trial over the constitutionality of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage

“There has been a shift in public opinion,” Chauncey agreed, but he added that gays continue to encounter “hostility.” The history and amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians is important legally because it goes to the question how much protection they need under the federal Constitution.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco