SAN FRANCISCO — A proponent of California's same-sex marriage ban testified Thursday that he thinks gays are more likely to be pedophiles and that allowing them to wed would lead to efforts to lower the age at which teenagers can legally have sex with adults.
Lawyers for two couples suing to overturn the ban, known as Proposition 8, called Hak-Shing William Tam of San Francisco to testify as a hostile witness to prove that bias toward gays fueled the campaign to pass the measure.
Proposition 8 sponsors have tried to distance themselves from Tam, even though his name appeared alongside ballot arguments for the measure in voter information pamphlets during the 2008 campaign.
In federal court, attorney David Boies spent time walking Tam through a Web site for a Chinese-American evangelical Christian group that featured a headline reading "Studies Show That Homosexuality Is Linked to Pedophilia."
Tam serves as secretary of the group, known as the American Return to God Prayer Movement.
The Web site also contained a link to another article claiming gays were 12 times more likely to molest children.
"So you supported this Web site making these kind of statements?" Boies asked.
"Uh, yes," Tam said.
"Do you believe that homosexuals are 12 times more likely to molest children?" the lawyer continued.
"Yeah, based on the different literature that I have read," Tam replied.
Boies pressed Tam to cite books, articles or authors he had read to substantiate the views, but Tam said he could not remember specifics.
Earlier in the trial, a Cambridge University professor testified that there is no evidence to suggest that gays are more likely to molest children than heterosexuals.
During a news conference outside court, lawyer Andy Pugno, who represents Proposition 8 backers, said Tam had "next to nothing" to do with the campaign, even though he was one of the measure's official proponents.
Tam said he spent a lot of time working on the campaign and frequently communicated with its leaders but modestly added he did not consider himself a major player.
Tam explained that he got involved in early efforts to promote the gay marriage ban in 2007, gathering signatures to qualify it for the ballot. He became an official proponent because of his concern that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage young people to pursue gay partners, he said.
"I think it's very important for the next generation to understand the historical meaning of marriage," he said. "I think it is very important that children won't grow up to fantasize or think about should I marry Jane or John when I grow up, because this is very important for Asian families."
Under questioning by Boies, Tam also said he agreed with a statement on the Web site for the Chinese-American Christian group that said if same-sex marriage was treated as a civil right, "so would pedophilia, polygamy and incest."
"And that is what you were telling people in encouraging them to vote for Proposition 8?" Boies asked.
"Yes," Tam answered.
Tam said he drew that conclusion after reading an Internet article that claimed incest and polygamy were legal in the Netherlands, a country where same-same marriages became legal in 2001.
Boies: "You are saying here that after same-sex marriage was legalized, the Netherlands legalized incest and polygamy?"
Tam: "Yeah, look at the date, Polygamy happened afterward."
"Who told you that? Where did you get that idea," Boies asked incredulously.
"It's the Internet," he said. "Another person in the organization found it and he showed me it. ... I looked at the document and I thought it was true."
Polygamy is not legal in the Netherlands, but the idea that it is became an urban myth of sorts in 2005 after a man and two women signed a private "cohabitation contract" while wearing wedding garb. Consensual incest between adults is no longer prosecuted in the Netherlands, but close relatives are not allowed to wed.
Under cross-examination from Nicole Moss, a lawyer for Proposition 8's sponsors, Tam said the opinions expressed on the Web site were his own and had not been approved by ProtectMarriage.com, the organization that ran the campaign, or submitted to its strategists for review.
"At any time during the campaign phase or any phase for Proposition 8 did you have a role in drafting the official message for ProtectMarriasge.com?" Moss asked.
"No," Tam answered, adding that his contact with the campaign's staff was minimal. "I was acting independently."
Shortly before Tam left the witness stand, Boies asked him if he had spoken to his lawyer during a 5-minute break in his testimony. Tam said he had.
"I said I felt like naughty boy being put in front of a classroom and being mocked at," he said.
Plaintiffs lawyers expect to rest their case on Friday with testimony from a University of California, Davis psychologist who is scheduled to testify about prejudice against lesbians and gay men.