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Official Prop. 8 proponent claims same-sex marriage can harm children

William Tam testifies at the federal trial that he told voters in the 2008 campaign that a gay agenda includes legalizing sex with children.

January 22, 2010|By Maura Dolan

Reporting from San Francisco — An official proponent of Proposition 8 testified at a federal trial Thursday that he was involved in disseminating claims that same-sex marriage could cause children to become gay and spark legalization of sex with children, incest and polygamy.

William Tam, one of five official proponents for the 2008 ballot initiative, also testified about his personal views toward same-sex marriage.

"It is very important that our children won't grow up to fantasize or think about, 'Should I marry Jane or John?' " testified Tam, a chemical engineer and evangelical Christian who lives in San Francisco.

As an official proponent, Tam was one of those who formally asked the state to pave the way for the measure's signature gathering. He also intervened in the federal challenge against Proposition 8 to defend the measure.

Just before trial started last week, Tam asked to be removed as a defendant, saying he feared for his and his family's safety. A ruling on his petition is pending.

Tam was asked Thursday about statements that the gay agenda includes legalizing sex with children.

"And that is what you told people to try to convince them to vote yes on Proposition 8, correct?" asked David Boies, a lawyer for two same-sex couples who are trying to overturn the measure on federal constitutional grounds.

"Yes," Tam replied.

Tam said he participated in weekly campaign conference calls run by the official campaign for grass-roots organizers. He said he also played a large role in the campaign to get the measure qualified for the ballot.

Under questioning by Boies, Tam said he was secretary of an anti-gay marriage website that carried a statement that homosexuals were 12 times more likely than heterosexuals to molest children. Tam said he agreed with the statement "based on different literature I have read." He was unable to recall where he read it.

He also testified that a flier for Proposition 8 predicted dire results if gays were given civil rights.

"If sexual orientation is characterized as a civil right, so would pedophilia, polygamy and incest," read the flier.

"That is what you were telling people to convince them to vote for Proposition 8, correct?" Boies asked.

"Yes," replied Tam.

A lawyer defending Proposition 8 tried to distance Tam from the campaign, eliciting statements from him that his words were not approved by the campaign and that he had no role in devising strategy.

Boies, on redirect, noted that Tam, a Chinese American, had described himself as a minority. Boies asked if he would be aggrieved if he were forbidden to marry the person he loved. Tam said yes.

In other testimony Thursday, a Stanford political scientist said gays were politically vulnerable, particularly at the ballot box.

Gary M. Segura, a Stanford professor of American political science, testified that voters have supported 70% of ballot measures to strip gays of rights during elections in the last 15 years.

He said there was no other group that has been so targeted by voters.

Segura also testified that FBI statistics showed hate crimes against gays and lesbians have held steady during the last five years and even rose in 2008. He cited opinion surveys that he said show that many people hold gays in low regard.

"Gays and lesbians lack the power necessary to protect themselves in the political system," Segura concluded.

In a lengthy cross-examination, a lawyer for Proposition 8 emphasized the gains gays have made, their support by Hollywood and the value of their endorsements in political races.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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