Controversial witness Hak-Shing William
Tam finally took the stand Thursday during the federal trial to
decide the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
The trial, now in its second week,
opened last Monday in a San Francisco courtroom with the emotional
testimony of a gay and a lesbian couple, each of which has been
denied the right to marry in California because of Proposition 8, the
gay marriage ban approved by voters in 2008.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have spent
the better part of the past two weeks arguing that proponents of
Proposition 8 approved the measure out of animus towards gay men and
lesbians. The defense says limiting marriage to heterosexual unions
fosters a stable environment to raise children.
Tam is the controversial gay marriage
opponent who alleged that gay marriage advocates also supported the
legalization of sex with children. He has appeared in court on
several occasions, but had not been called upon.
During a pretrial hearing, Tam
attempted to remove himself as a defendant in the case after learning
that Walker had green lit a plan to broadcast the proceedings to
other courtrooms. Proponents of Proposition 8 appealed the ruling to
the Supreme Court, which blocked the broadcasts.
A video deposition of the San Francisco
resident was viewed by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker
last week. In the video, Tam spoke about a letter he wrote to
Chinese-American church groups in support of Proposition 8.
“On their agenda list is: legalize
having sex with children,” Tam wrote. The letter goes on to warn
that “other states would fall into Satan's hands” if the gay
marriage ban is not approved.
On the witness stand, Tam said he did
not represent the Proposition 8 campaign in an official capacity and
called an email naming him a leader “flattery.”
“I don't believe I am [in the
leadership],” Tam said.
But plaintiffs lawyer David Boies
disagreed. Boies asked Tam whether he devoted a majority of his time
to getting the measure on the ballot. Tam answered “yes.” Boies
asked whether Tam organized Prop. 8 rallies, and again, Tam answered
“yes.” Boies asked whether Tam debated the issue on television.
Tam answered “yes.”
Boies hammered Tam on his motivations,
including the claims that gay people are 12 times more likely to
molest children and that being gay is a choice. Tam said he believed
the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality
(NARTH), a group that believes sexual orientation can be altered,
over the APA, which says being gay is a normal sexual deviation.
Tam had few concrete answers to explain
his prejudice against gay men and lesbians, saying he got some of his
ideas from the Internet, but disagreed that he was hostile to the gay
Shaken by the cross-examining, Tam
suggested that gay marriage would simply “mix up kids.”
Nicole Moss, a lawyer for the defense,
countered that Tam met with the Proposition 8 campaign mostly during
the signature gathering phase. “I was acting independently,” Tam
The case resumes Friday, when
plaintiffs are expected to wrap up their case and hand over the
courtroom to the defense.