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Prop. 8 opponents seek to show link between religion, anti-gay discrimination [Updated]

January 20, 2010 |  1:03 pm

Challengers of California's ban on same-sex marriage are trying to show at trial today that discrimination against gays and lesbians is rooted in religion and that churches have contributed to anti-gay violence.

Opponents of Proposition 8 called to the stand Ryan Kendall, who grew up in an evangelical Christian family in Colorado and was forced to submit to Christian therapy as a teenager to change his sexual orientation.

"I was just as gay as when I started, " Kendall testified.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is presiding over the marriage trial, permitted Kendall to testify over objections by Proposition 8's defenders, on the grounds they had argued sexual orientation was changeable.

Kendall, now a resident of Denver, testified tearfully about how his mother abused him after learning of his sexuality from reading his journal. He said he was called slurs and that his glasses were smashed while attending an evangelical school.

The therapy and his parents' reaction to his sexuality led him to contemplate suicide, and at 16 he went to a Colorado social service agency to ask for protection, he testified. His parents' custody was revoked.

Attorneys challenging Proposition 8 also presented videotaped testimony from two experts on religion who had been retained by the measure's defenders. They have since withdrawn from the case.

The experts agreed under questioning that gays and lesbians have experienced discrimination and that some religions have contributed to that discrimination. They also acknowledged that religion has been used to justify discrimination against African Americans and women.

[Updated at 2:09 p.m.: Challengers of the Proposition 8 presented documents this afternoon that the Catholic and Mormon churches were closely tied to the campaign to pass the measure.]

-- Maura Dolan at the San Francisco federal courthouse