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Proposition 8 Trial: Witness Testifies Kids Do Fine With Gay Parents

LISA LEFF   01/15/10 09:43 PM ET   AP

Proposition Trial

SAN FRANCISCO — Getting married brought big changes to the lives of author Helen Zia and her partner Lia Shigemura.

At family reunions, funerals and other gatherings, the Oakland couple found their relationship much more accepted after their parents could start saying they had a daughter-in-law.

"My mother, an immigrant from China, she really doesn't get what 'partner' is," Zia, 57, testified Friday during the fifth day of a federal civil trial challenging California's same-sex marriage ban.

"Marriage made it very clear that I was family, that we were family, and I was where I belonged," she said.

Zia and her partner were among an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples that married in 2008 during a four-month window when the practice was legal in California. Until then, they had been domestic partners.

Zia's testimony was intended to show that California's domestic partnership law, which grants same-sex couples the rights of marriage but not the title or the federal benefits, is not an acceptable substitute.

Brian Raum, a defense lawyer representing sponsors of Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot measure approved in 2008, objected to Zia being called to the witness stand. He argued that her individual experience was irrelevant to the trial's constitutional questions.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is hearing the case without a jury, said he would allow Zia to testify then give her statements their appropriate weight in his deliberations.

Earlier in the day, a Cambridge University psychologist testified that children raised by same-sex parents are as well-adjusted and safe from abuse as kids who grow up with a mother and father.

"For a significant number of these children, their adjustment would be promoted were their parents able to get married," developmental psychologist Michael Lamb said while undercutting arguments made by sponsors of Proposition 8.

Lamb said there was no evidence that children with gay parents were more likely to become gay themselves or become victims of sexual abuse or incest.

In addition, he said no evidence exists that gays or lesbians were more likely to sexually abuse children.

Sponsors of the measure have said restricting marriage to a man and woman can be justified by the need to foster procreation and to make sure that children are raised by their biological parents.

During cross-examination, David Thompson, another attorney for Proposition 8 sponsors, contended there was little empirical evidence related to children of transgender individuals and the outcomes of children of bisexuals.

"No," Lamb agreed.

Thompson urged Lamb to acknowledge there were significant differences between men and women, including that men are more likely to be alcoholics, engage in acts of violence and have learning disabilities.

Lamb agreed that was all true.

"We can also agree that men can't breast-feed, and breast-feeding clearly has benefits for children in that it provides sources of immunity that are beneficial to children," Thompson said, raising his voice.

"Yes, that is correct," Lamb replied.

Judge Walker interrupted the cross-examination to explore Lamb's assertion that gays were no more likely to abuse children than heterosexuals.

"We have all read about the reports of widespread priestly abuse in the Roman Catholic church and the litigation that has been spawned by those reports," the judge said. "How do you square your statement with that phenomenon?"

Lamb said he was not an expert in church-related child abuse, but it was his understanding the Catholic church cases involved gay and heterosexual priests.

"I don't want to convey that homosexuals never abuse children, simply that they are no more likely to than heterosexuals," he said.

Walker also asked why adopted children seek out their biological parents if "there is no basis for the view that an absence of a genetic relationship increases adverse outcomes for children."

Lamb said people who are adopted want to know their biological origins in the same way others study their family genealogy.

"That would not be viewed as an index of maladjustment," he said. "It would be something that reflects an individual trying to understand where they came from."

Lawyers for Proposition 8 sponsors were expected to start presenting their case late next week after whittling their expert witness list from six people to two.

A brief tempest erupted in court Friday when Thompson told the judge some defense experts had bowed out because they did not want videotaped testimony to be broadcast outside the courthouse.

The witnesses included Louisiana State University social scientist Loren Marks, who had been expected to testify that being raised by married biological parents was best for children.

The move by the witnesses came even though the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday indefinitely blocked Walker's plan to record the trial so it could be transmitted to other federal courthouses. Walker then withdrew his application to have the case broadcast on the Internet.

Lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., who represents the plaintiffs, claimed defense lawyers dumped the witnesses because they did not think they would hold up well under cross-examination.

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