Federal Judge Rules Prop 8 Trial Will Be Broadcast Via YouTube

Posted on 06 January 2010

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By Pamela Brown
Marriage Equality USA

After soliciting public comment and arguments from the parties on whether to broadcast the Prop 8 trial, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker confirmed Wednesday that he will permit the trial proceedings to be made available to the public via a tape-delayed version to be posted on YouTube.

Proponents of prop 8 had petitioned the court unsuccessfully to keep the proceedings from being broadcast to the public, claiming public access to the proceedings could affect witness testimony. 

The proceedings will be made available at YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/usdccand.  

Judge Walker has long been a proponent of permitting the broadcast of non-jury federal court cases that are of important public interest.  He received approval from the federal appeals court in San Francisco to allow this to be the first federal trial telecast using court-operated cameras. “Given the tremendous interest in this case and the constitutional principles at stake, this is an ideal test case,” said Walker.

The Judge heard argument from Thomas Burke, counsel for various media organizations, urging Judge Walker to go further and allow live telecasting by a professional camera crew from In Session, formerly known as Court TV, who could provide pool coverage with higher quality and none of the technological limitations that the court staff would face with YouTube.  However, Walker indicated that he preferred to use the court-operated program that has already been adopted and used by the White House for public briefings to ensure the control of this new technology stayed firmly in the hands of the court and did not provide additional technical distractions from the proceedings.

In addition to the youtube broadcasts, the court will provide real-time video feeds broadcast to the overflow room in this courthouse, as well as possibly other ninth district courthouses in San Francisco (at 7th and Mission), Pasadena, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and others.

Plaintiffs in the case (attorneys representing David Bois and Ted Olsen who are opposed to Proposition 8) applauded this proposed public broadcast, describing this as a case of great importance and profound public interest to same-sex couples, as well as to the millions of Californians that voted both for and against Proposition 8. 

Plaintiffs described these proceedings as "being conducted in the people’s courtroom” and therefore were a “matter of public property.” 

Defendants in the case (i.e., proponents of Proposition 8) strongly opposed both broadcasting to other ninth district courthouses and providing any video feeds via the web, citing concerns that it would impact the testimony of witnesses, an argument the court ultimately did not accept. 

Chief Judge Walker questioned the defendant’s concerns regarding the impact on witness testimony citing that it is common practice to videotape depositions of witnesses and specifically referred to the defendant’s witness list that was primarily comprised of academics accustomed to speaking in front of large audiences.

Molly McKay, Marriage Equality USA’s Media Director commented on the Judge’s decision.  “This case is of monumental importance to our families, but we can’t be here every day to listen to the issues before the court and decisions that will be made,” said McKay.  “So we greatly appreciate and we need this opportunity to witness this historic hearing.” 

McKay added, “It is also essential that these issues are heard by the court of public opinion so everyone understands the harm that results from popular votes that target minority groups and serve to snatch away civil rights."  

"Proposition 8 damaged families, communities and our constitutional system and we believe that by televising this trial where issues are fairly debated and witnesses are under oath that Californians, that all Americans, will gain a better understanding on the judicial process and why civil rights should never be put to a public vote,” said McKay.

Trial proceedings will begin on Monday, January 11, 2010 at 8:30 a.m.  In advance of Monday's proceedings, Marriage Equality USA has scheduled a early morning vigil, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on the steps of the Philip Burton Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.  
Pamela Brown is Policy Director of Marriage Equality USA, which is committed to securing the right to civil marriage for same-sex couples. 

Along with their Mormon and Evangelical brethren, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is hitting the airwaves with a politicized message of opposition to the trial broadcasts, claiming publicizing the hearings will "intimidate" witnesses and Catholic Church supporters.

More like "Shame" them.

Here is the Catholic News Agency article, which ran alongside two other marriage-related stories, including one describing the claims made by Mexico City's Bishop, that same-sex marriage will lead to the destruction of society as we know it! Apparently the Church has no time for subtlety. Ironically, what the Bishop describes is not same-sex marriage, but rather same-sex couples, which of course the existence of which current political debate does not argue their right to exist. It should be noted, however, that Andrew Pugno and Pete Knight's widow Gayle, circulated a petition in 2006 calling for a proposition to repeal Domestic Partnerships. It would, therefore, surprise no one to learn at some point in the near future, that the Catholic Church is supporting the repeal of Domestic Partnerships and making same-sex relationships illegal once more.

YouTube broadcasts of prop 8 hearings could lead to more intimidation
(As with all CNA stories, there is no author).

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 6, 2010 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- A judge’s January 6 decision to allow the broadcast of court hearings on California’s Proposition 8 could lead to further harassment and intimidation of Prop. 8 supporters by radical homosexual activists, critics say.

Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the Northern District of California, had proposed a last-minute revision to the court rules that would allow television coverage of the trial, the Washington Times reports.

A document posted on the court's website states that people may comment on the decision to open the courtroom to TV cameras until Jan. 8.

Speaking at a hearing on the matter on Wednesday, Judge Vaughn said the case deals with important issues and should be allowed to be broadcast over YouTube.

YouTube is owned by Google Inc., the Mountain View, California-based internet giant which opposed the measure. The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog “The Tech Chronicles” reports that company founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page donated at least $140,000 to Prop. 8 opponents.

Attorneys for backers of Prop. 8 have argued that media coverage would expose their witnesses to further intimidation.

Backers of the ballot measure were targeted for harassment after the measure passed in November 2008 by 52 to 48 percent. With the aid of internet websites that combined maps and donor lists, some donors received threatening e-mails, letters and phone calls. Churches and businesses were targeted by protesters, boycotts and vandals.

According to the Washington Times, Brian Brown, executive director of the Prop. 8 backer National Organization for Marriage, said he is worried about the safety of witnesses, including campaign contributors, staff and volunteers.

"The question is really whether Judge Walker can put people on the stand where they can be threatened," Brown commented. "It's a question of people's safety."

The court usually bans television, radio and photography. On Dec. 17 the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit announced that it approved the “limited use of cameras” on an experimental basis.

Rick Jacobs, chairman of the homosexual “marriage” advocacy group the Courage Campaign, told the Washington Times that the case presents issues that are “very important to the public” and will affect millions of people.

"By televising the trial, the public will be able to see for themselves the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, and will therefore have more confidence in the outcome of the trial," he said.

The lawsuit in question was filed in June by two homosexual couples who argue that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

Prop. 8 had surmounted several other legal challenges in what its backers have charged to be frivolous lawsuits.

re: Catholic News Agency link -

When did the Church become so politicized? The messages of tolerance and non-violence are nowhere to be found in the attorneys and political campaigns, strategists and consultants which all seem to accompany this new conservative push to the right. We live in a society where church and state are rightfully and beneficially separate. Do we, as Catholics, wish to be seen as pushing any political agenda or movement? I find it shameful and worse, I feel increasingly disconnected from my faith, even more so than during the sex scandals that rocked our parish a decade ago. I pray that the Church leaders will find their way back from the lurid political light and conservative right to which they seem increasingly attracted. This is not the Catholic Church of my childhood.