Controversial Proposition 8 backer is grilled on beliefs about gays


SAN FRANCISCO — A leading proponent of California’s
Proposition 8 found himself on trial Thursday inside the boundaries of
the historic federal court trial here to decide the legality of the
state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

During an afternoon of scathing inquiry from prominent plaintiffs’ attorney David Boies, William Tam,
a controversial figure in the Proposition 8 movement, was confronted
repeatedly on views depicted as hostile to the rights of gays and
lesbians. Tam acknowledged he likened same-sex marriage to pedophilia,
polygamy and legalizing sex with children, and that California would fall into the “hands of Satan” if gay and lesbian couples could wed.

The San Francisco-based
Proposition 8 proponent, called as part of the case to overturn the
state’s gay marriage ban, explained that he primarily opposed same-sex
marriage because it would encourage children to “marry John or Jane” of
the same sex when they “grow up.”

“I believe if the term marriage can be used beyond
one man, one woman, then any two persons of any age, of any
relationship, can use that same argument to ask for the term marriage,”
Tam testified. “That would lead to incest. That would lead to polygamy.
If this is a civil right, what would prevent other groups from asking
for the same right?”

With the plaintiffs nearing the end of their witnesses, Tam was called to the witness stand as part of the legal challenge to California’s voter-approved 2008 ban on same-sex marriage unfolding before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers consider Tam’s harsh outlook
toward gay marriage important to proving that Proposition 8 was fueled
by hostility and animus toward gays and lesbians, providing reason to
give them greater protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Proposition 8 supporters insist they oppose gay
marriage to preserve the traditional definition of heterosexual
marriage, not to discriminate against the rights of gays and lesbians.
Proposition 8 lawyer Nicole Moss, through her
questions, tried to distance the campaign from Tam’s statements,
depicting him as going rogue with his statements about gays and
lesbians without the consent of Proposition 8 campaign officials.

“I was acting independently,” Tam said of statements
he made that were not approved by and Proposition
8’s leadership.

Boies, however, portrayed Tam as inextricably linked
to the campaign, showing e-mails in which he regularly communicated
with officials and evidence Tam mobilized the Asian
community and organized rallies against same-sex marriage.

The plaintiffs are expected to finish their case Friday with the testimony of another expert, University of California, Davis, psychology Professor Greg Herek, who will discuss the nature of homosexuality and its characteristics.

Earlier Thursday, Stanford University political science Professor Gary Segura finished his testimony, which amounted to the equivalent of a full day
on the stand. He was grilled by Proposition 8 lawyers on his position
that gays and lesbians are “powerless” in the political arena.

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