January 11, 2010 at 11:20 am EST | by Erwin de Leon
Taking responsibility

The landmark civil rights trial, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which challenges the constitutional validity of California’s Proposition 8, begins today.

It will not decide once and for all whether same-sex couples can wed; experts are anticipating that the verdict will be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nonetheless, the next few weeks will be an opportunity for Chief Judge Vaughn Walker to collect the building blocks — a detailed factual record — upon which the U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately decide whether we have the same right to marriage as opposite-sex couples.

This record will include documents, testimonies and other materials from both sides from which the judge will issue his ruling. A lot of evidence about the Yes on 8 campaign will be presented, among them depositions from key players. But some of these individuals are protesting the process, including an original sponsor of Prop 8, Hak-Shing William Tam.

Tam voluntarily chose to be an official litigant, a defendant-intervenor, in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. He was and is an ardent and tireless opponent of same-sex marriage, saying that “I dedicated the majority of my working hours between January 2008 and November 2008 toward qualifying Proposition 8 for the ballot and campaigning for its enactment.” During this period, Tam wrote a letter to his church prophesying the apocalyptic results if lesbians and gays were given the same rights as straight people.

”One by one, other states would fall into Satan’s hands,” he wrote. ”Every child, when growing up, would fantasize marrying someone of the same sex. More children would become homosexuals.”

On Jan. 8, he said that he wants out, expressing concern for his and his family’s safety. Through his lawyers, Tam argued that “in the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8 … now that the subject lawsuit is going to trial, I fear I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

But as Box Turtle Bulletin notes:

… his concerns about being recognized didn’t seem to have dissuaded Bill Tam from giving interviews and making videos and participating in debates during the campaign. And the worrisome issues didn’t give him enough concern to keep him from petitioning the court in May 2009 to be added as a defendant. And Tam provides no instances since May in which anyone recognizing him has been anything other than “friendly”. He hasn’t even removed from availability the DVD he has called “FAQ: Same-Sex Marriage & Homosexuality” which explains the “Possible Cause of Same Sex Attraction and the Healing” …

He also complained that the case has become more burdensome and intrusive than he had anticipated. This is the probably the more honest reason why he no longer wants to be bothered with it. In his motion to withdraw, he admits:

A second reason that I want to withdraw as a Defendant-Intervenor is that I do not like the burden of complying with discovery requests. I do not like people questioning me on my private personal beliefs. I do not like people questioning me regarding fourteen year old articles I wrote in the Chinese language to my constituents. I don’t like people focusing on a few articles I posted on my website regarding homosexuality and disregarding the 50 or 60 other articles I posted regarding family values subjects. I do not like the exposure of my history to people who are antagonistic to me. In short, I do not like the burden of discovery and the privacy intrusion associated with being a Defendant-Intervernor.

What did he expect? That those who believe in equity and justice would allow the continued oppression of a minority? That rational and fair-minded people would not stand up against him and his ilk and shed light on their superstitious and unfounded beliefs? That freedom loving Americans would not fight their lack of respect for the constitutional separation of church and state? And while I do not condone any damage to his property, much less physical harm to Tam and his family, why is he surprised by the anger and lashing out? Did he expect us to forever remain acquiescent, take the abuse and be satisfied at the margins?

Tam and others like him, who feel no compunction whatsoever in institutionalizing their bigotry and hatred, seem oblivious to the fact that he generated all the trouble and inconvenience he is whining about. He chose his brand of religion. He chose to exercise his rights. He chose to express his opinion. He chose to perpetuate exclusion and discrimination. Choices have consequences.

While he was supposedly harassed for choices only he made, we are harassed, bullied, mocked, threatened, beaten, raped and murdered simply because we happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. None of us choose to be who we are. If there is any choice to be made, it is to live openly and with integrity, a right and freedom enshrined in this nation’s constitution. And we take responsibility for our choice even if for many it means separation from family, friends and society.

So, Tam, stop bellyaching and take responsibility for your choice.

You can follow Erwin on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon

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