As the battle over televising the federal Prop 8 trial continues (five cities will get a live feed), one of Perry v. Schwarzenegger‘s defendants/intervenors, Hak-Shing William Tam, is asking the court of the eve of the trial’s start to from the lawsuit. How come? Well, he fears you gay rights supporters are going to hunt him down — like you’ve been doing already! Also: Like, this is taking up a lot more time than he suspected!
How coincidental, then, that Prop 8’s defenders — Charles Cooper (pictured) and ProtectMarriage.com — are arguing that letting the trial be recorded and uploaded to YouTube will serve to intimidate supporters of marriage discrimination. By withdrawing from the case, Tam, one of the original five voluntary defendants, sends the most clear signal yet that, hey, they are scurrred of public scrutiny. In a public forum. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
(Along with Tam, the official intervenors are: Dennis Hollingsworth, Gail J. Knight,Peter Henderson, and Mark A. Jansson.)
Reads Tam’s motion, filed Friday, in part:
I want to voluntarily withdraw as a Defendant-Intervenor for several reasons. The first reason is because I am fearful for my personal safety and the safety of my family. 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 that I will get mor epublicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.
He then goes on to allege several things that were done to him, like his car being vandalized, someone trying to remove a Prop 8 sign from his front yard, and people leaving threatening comments on a YouTube video featuring him — which, c’mon, have you met the Internet? (But also: Death threats online are not cool, so yeah, that’s terrible.)
And if all that weren’t enough, Tam had no idea that Perry would take over his life. It’s as if he thought fighting in court to discriminate against a certain class of Americans would be just another hobby that he could schedule in between crafts and knitting.
I do not like the burden of complying with discovery requests. I do not like people questioning 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 being quoted out of context and find it very offensive. 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 agnostic to me. In short, I do not like the burden of discovery and the privacy invasion associated with being a Defendant-Intervenor. [… ] I am tired and I want peace. I want peace to carry on my ministry and I don’t want to be indefinitely tied down with this case.
Oh how easy those heterosexuals have it, getting to choose when to dip their feet into the marriage waters when it’s convenient. Now that Mr. Tam realizes that, hey, people are going to disagree with me (publicly!) and criticize me (publicly!) and call me a bigot (publicly!), he doesn’t want to complete the mission he signed up for.
Which is fine; there are plenty more marriage discriminators around to fill his place. But his request to exit the trial is not a signal that Perry is too invasive for supporters of Prop 8. It’s a distinctive signal that the very people who campaigned to strip away gay Californians’ right to marry now can’t even tough it out when people call bullshit on their bigotry.
(NB: Is anyone else curious over how few Google search results Hak-Shing William Tam’s name pulls up? Most of them are just-posted news items about Tam’s withdrawing from the case. Tam’s motion to withdraw appears on the website of the Equal Rights Foundation, the group funding the Olson/Boies legal team.)