Scroll To Top

Thursday Jan 21 Recap Federal Prop 8 Trial


Court testimony from a fervent Proposition 8 supporter and mid-level organizer of the campaign symbolized "one of the clearest windows we have into the minds, hearts, and souls of what was really involved in Prop. 8," co-lead plaintiffs' attorney David Boies said of Thursday's court proceedings.

Now in their eighth day of witness testimony, plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger called to the stand William Tam, the president of the Traditional Family Coalition who aided in gathering signatures for placing Prop. 8 on the ballot as well as coordinating support from religious groups in opposing marriage equality. Tam had intervened as a defendant in the case but has since attempted to withdraw, citing fear of harassment and unwanted media attention.

Though Boies admitted that Tam was not the brains behind Prop. 8's campaign strategy, he seemed eager to prove that the ballot measure's chief organizers were supportive of religious community leaders like Tam who hold virulently antigay views. Court exhibits of inflammatory articles either authored by Tam or published on the websites of groups in which he served in a leadership role included far-reaching, unsubstantiated assertions made in order to stoke marriage equality opposition.

Among them: that gays are "12 times more likely" to molest children, that legalizing same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to the lowering of the age of consent, and that following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands in 2001, the country went on to legalize incest and polygamy in 2005.

"Where did you read this?" Boies snapped during his questioning. "Was it a book? Was it an article? Who wrote it?"

Tam replied that he had read the information "on the Internet" and that the sources were "apparently academic articles."

Boies grilled an often recalcitrant Tam not only on the antigay rhetoric he was propagating but also on the details of his involvement with, the organization that spearheaded Yes on 8 efforts. Perhaps predictably, attorneys defending Prop. 8 attempted to distance themselves from Tam, portraying him as an organizer of signatures early on (he collected about 20,000), but not an integral part of the campaign in the summer and fall of 2008.

During a break in late-afternoon testimony, Tam left the witness stand to talk with his attorney. When he returned, Boies asked him whether he had left the stand and what he had said to his attorney.

Tam replied, "I said I felt like a naughty boy being put in front of a classroom and being mocked at."

Boies responded with two terse questions. "You are aware that there were unfortunate periods of our history when Asian-Americans were limited in whom they could marry. Yes?"

"Yes," Tam replied.

"And I take it if those laws were present today, you'd feel very aggrieved if you couldn't marry person you loved?"

Tam: "Yes."

Defense attorney Andrew Pugno, who in a post-court session press conference reiterated that Tam played a minor role in the Prop. 8 campaign, railed against Judge Vaughn Walker for allowing plaintiffs' attorneys to question him. "This is the first time ever that a supporter of an initiative is called to the stand to explain his political and personal views," Pugno said.

Attorneys challenging Prop. 8 will conclude their case Friday. After that, Prop. 8 proponents currently have only two witnesses scheduled to testify, though Pugno said today that his side may consider calling to the stand chairman Ron Prentice as well as Frank Schubert, the media strategist behind Yes on 8.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff