SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Campaign advertisements for Proposition 8's gay marriage ban exploited age-old prejudices against homosexuality, Yale social historian George Chauncey said in wrapping up Tuesday's round of expert testimony against Prop 8. When the opposing lawyer objected to the print ads used by the witness, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said, to laughter from the crowd, "But it's a document that appears to have been produced by your own client. It's not like it's from the Boston Herald."
"The focus on children was the most striking thing - that we have to protect them from gay marriage. That it could lead children who are confused about their sexuality to become gay, which would be undesirable."
Chauncey, a professor of history and American Studies at Yale, said America's history of prejudice, in this case, focuses on the notion that lesbians and gay men are a threat to children. "I was especially struck by the fact that the ads in general focused on protecting kids," Chauncey said, calling it "the key message" of the ads for Prop. 8.
Some of the television ads provoked laughter from the courtroom, particularly an ad featuring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's famous November 2008 speech in support of same-sex marriage, in which he proclaimed, "This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not."
But the television ad that startled Chauncey most was one depicting a young girl excitedly informing her mother that she had learned in school that "a prince can marry a prince and someday I can marry a princess."
Print advertisements were also presented, though David Thompson, lead attorney for supporters of Prop. 8, ProtectMarriage.com, objected, saying the ads were not on the evidence list and he had not had a chance to see them.
"But it's a document that appears to have been produced by your own client," said U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, to laughter from the crowd. "It's not like it's from the Boston Herald."
One print ad depicted a man and woman with a child between them. The ad stated, "Yes on 8 to protect marriage. You have the power to protect your children." Thompson objected that this ad was "not an authentic ProtectMarriage campaign poster."
A second ad featured two stick-figure adults surrounded by stick-figure children. When asked what the ad portrayed, Chauncey replied, "a heterosexual couple."
"How do you know they're heterosexual?" Judge Walker asked, to more laughter from the crowd.
"Because they are a couple of the opposite sex," Chauncey said.
Expert witness testimony will continue today, at which time attorneys for opponents of Prop. 8 promised to verify the Yes on 8 poster's authenticity.
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