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Prop 8 Trial Update Day 7: Religion and 'Conversion Therapy' for Homosexuality

Prop 8 Trial Update Day 7: Religion and 'Conversion Therapy' for Homosexuality

Challengers of California's ban on same-sex marriage tried to show that religion has promoted discrimination against gays and lesbians. On the seventh day of the trial, lawyers trying to overturn Prop 8 presented testimony of a gay man, Ryan Kendall, whose parents forced him to undergo "conversion therapy" in his teens. 

Challengers of California's ban on same-sex marriage tried to show Wednesday that religion has promoted discrimination against gays and lesbians, reports the LA Times.

On the seventh day of the trial in San Francisco, lawyers trying to overturn Proposition 8 presented testimony of a gay man who said his parents forced him to undergo "conversion therapy" in hopes of changing his sexuality in his teens. The plaintiffs put Ryan Kendall on the stand as part of an effort to show that homosexuality is an ingrained part of someone's persona, not a lifestyle choice as heavily argued by opponents.

The emotional testimony of Kendall, 26, recalled for the court the three years he spent undergoing conversion therapy at the insistence of his evangelical parents, who told him he would "burn in hell" when they read in his journal that their then-13-year-old son was indeed gay. Growing up in the conservative city of Colorado Springs, Kendall said he knew he was different and that he "liked boys" early on, but it wasn't until age 11 when he looked up the word "homosexual" in the dictionary that he realized he was gay.

"My parents flipped out," said Kendall, who now works for the Denver Police Department analyzing data from an FBI secure database. "It was shocking. I had never heard anything like that from my mother. You don't get anything worse than eternal damnation."

Between the ages of 14 and 16 Kendall underwent "treatment" for being gay with Joseph Nicolosi Ph.D., a practitioner of conversion therapy with the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in Encino, California. Kendall would occasionally fly out for in-person sessions, but mostly had weekly phone visits with Nicolosi.

"I was told the goal was to make me a heterosexual," said Kendall of the treatment.

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Instead of making him straight, Kendall said he remained gay but became depressed and suicidal.

"My life had fallen apart. I did not have my faith, family," he said. "I couldn't take it anymore. If I didn't stop going I wasn't going to survive. I was going to kill myself."

On the political scope during his time on the witness stand Wednesday, Stanford political professor Gary M. Segura Segura told the court that gays and lesbians have no "meaningful political power" in America and are in fact "politically vulnerable." This political powerlessness manifests itself in the LGBT community's inability to fight off or defeat anti-gay voter initiatives such as Prop 8, testified Segura.

"They don't have the numbers and resources to be effective political advocates in a lot of arenas," he said.

"Religion is the chief obstacle to gay and lesbian progress," he added.

"Biblical condemnation of homosexuality and the teachings against gays and lesbians on a constant basis lays the groundwork against gay and lesbian political achievement," said Segura. "I think most campaigns would be thrilled to have 1,700 people on a conference call. That is a profound volunteer corps."

The legal team later produced documents that showed close ties between leaders of the Catholic and Mormon churches and the Proposition 8 campaign.

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