First Gay Marriage Debate Broadcast Live Blocked by Supreme Court

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The nation’s first federal trial on whether a ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional is set to begin Monday in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will preside over a two-week trial on a lawsuit in which two couples claim that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal treatment.

Those plans have been blocked: The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the live broadcast of California’s Prop 8 trial at four federal courthouses across the country, including in Pasadena.

Backers of Proposition 8 filed a last-minute appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal to ban media cameras in the San Francisco courthouse, where the landmark trial will begin Monday.

Opponents of the broadcast say they’re afraid the presence of cameras might affect witness testimony.

Along with Pasadena and San Francisco, the trial was set to be broadcast at federal courthouses in Portland, Seattle and Brooklyn, New York. Video of the trial was also expected to be posted on

The high court on Monday said it will not allow video of the trial to be posted on YouTube, even with a delay, until the justices have more time to consider the issue.

The court said that Monday’s order will be in place at least until Wednesday.

Prop 8 Backers Go to U.S. Supreme Court to Block Trial Broadcast


The Courage Campaign delivered  140,671 letters/petitions to Judge Vaughn Walker requesting that the Prop 8 trial be televised in response to his request for comments on exactly that issue. Earlier this week, Walker delivered an early ruling that the trial would be provided by delayed broadcast on YouTube.

Prop 8 backers filed an emergency petition on Friday to block broadcast of the trial. They have been denied.

Several federal courthouses around the country, however, will prove a live video and audio feed of the trial. See a list here.

UPDATE: Prop 8 supporters have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to block broadcast of trial proceedings after Judge Walker’s rejection of their requests:

In a filing to Justice Anthony Kennedy, they asked for a stay to halt Judge Vaughn Walker’s plans to show the trial, which starts on Monday, pending their plans to petition the Supreme Court via a writ of certiorari.

In a filing from chief counsel Charles Cooper, they reiterated their argument that the plans for televised coverage diverges from “long standing policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States,” but they also go further and claim that it is the result of “unlawful process used to ensure that the proceedings in this particular case would be broadcast, regardless of the consequences.”

They claim that the plans for cameras would cause witnesses “irreparable harm,” and undermine the chance for a fair trial. They also argue that the idea of a broadcast — made possible by a recently launched pilot program — was put into place without the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals conducting a full review, including comments from the public.

Yusef Robb, spokesman for American Foundation for Equal Rights, sent out an email saying that Olson and Boies have a brief period in which to respond:

“In a last gasp attempt to keep cameras out of court, the Defendant-Intervenors in Perry v. Schwarzenegger have made an emergency application to the Supreme Court asking Justice Kennedy to block camera coverage.We have been asked to file a response by 12:00 Eastern on Sunday, January 10.

“Those who want to ban gay marriage spent millions of dollars to reach the public with misleading ads, rallies and news conferences during the campaign to pass Prop. 8.  We are curious why they now fear the publicity they once craved,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Apparently transparency is their enemy, but the people deserve to know exactly what it is they have to hide.”

In the meantime listen and watch Gay Marriage: A Debate

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