Dr. William Tam, executive director of the Traditional Family Coalition in San Francisco -- and a man listed in the voter handbook as one of five official proponents of Proposition 8 -- was questioned today by plaintiffs' attorney David Boies about his role in the Prop. 8 campaign. It wasn't pretty.
After claiming he had a very small role in the campaign, Tam acknowledged writing a letter to Asian-American voters warning that unless Prop. 8 passed, "other states will fall into Satan's hands." He also acknowledged organizing rallies and participating in debates in coordination with Yes on 8 officials. Tam also testified that he believed studies showing that homosexuals were 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals, but said under oath he couldn't remember where he read the study. He acknowledged writing that other countries that legalized gay marriage also legalized sex with 13-year-old children, but then admitted it wasn't true. You had to feel sorry for him -- he could have been in over his head, never expecting to have his personal views aired in a court of law. His most poignant testimony: "You may say I'm a paranoid Chinese parent. But we get very upset about that. I had parents coming to me asking me what to do about this [gay marriage]."
Why does this matter? Prop. 8 opponents are trying to demonstrate that the measure was conceived in prejudice and animosity toward gay people, and they say Tam's testimony today proves it.
Prop. 8 attorney Andy Pugno fought back, slamming opponents for calling Dr. Tam to testify. "You are witnessing history," Pugno told reporters. "Somebody who supported an initiative is being put on the stand -- like the Inquisition -- and questioned about his political beliefs as though his beliefs can be declared proper or improper and therefore strike down what seven million voters decided on Election Day.
Update, January 22: You can listen to my report about Tam's testimony, heard yesterday evening on KQED Radio News. Click on the player below, or listen on the program's web site.