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U.S. Supreme Court: No cameras in Prop 8 trial proceedings

(WASHINGTON D.C.) In a 5-4 vote the U.S. Supreme court Wednesday indefinitely blocked cameras from the ongoing federal trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito, voted against, while Justices Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor voted in favor.

The Court concluded that Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the trial judge in this case, had not given the public enough time to comment last week before he approved live telecasts to be shown in several courthouses around the country, as well as on YouTube.

“The District Court attempted to change its rules at the eleventh hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district,” wrote the Justices. “Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue. If courts are to require that others follow regular procedures, courts must do so as well.”

Had the initiative passed, this would have marked the first time a federal trial in California would be shown on TV or the Internet.

“We are deeply disappointed with the high court’s ruling,” said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. “The proponents of the discriminatory marriage ban have relied on television ads chock full of destructive mistruths to propagate their harmful agenda against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians, and broadcasting the trial would have provided a vital opportunity for the public to hear directly from same-sex couples and their families about the overwhelming damage of Proposition 8, which serves no purpose except to assign same-sex couples a separate and distinctly unequal status.”

"It is very troubling that the Supreme Court has decided to prohibit, even on a delayed basis, any video transmission of the proceedings in Perry v. Schwarzenegger,” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean. “In doing so, the Court has failed to recognize that where matters so basic to the dignity and equality of millions of Americans are at issue, it is even more imperative than usual that all of the constitutional arguments, pro and con, be exposed to the greatest possible public scrutiny.

"Given its widespread interest and potentially historic implications, there couldn't be a more ideal case with which to launch the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' new initiative to allow video cameras in the courtroom.”

Supporters of Prop 8, however, are applauding the ruling.

“We are relieved that the United States Supreme Court intervened to protect our witnesses from the harm that would come with televising the Prop 8 trial,” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com. “As we have said from the start, televising the proceedings in a high-profile case is unprecedented in federal court, and impedes our ability to get a fair and impartial trial. Most importantly, putting Prop 8 supporters on the witness stand and broadcasting their testimony worldwide would virtually guarantee a serious risk of harm threatened by anti-Prop 8 extremists.

“In fact, the Supreme Court decision expressly acknowledged that there is already a track record of Prop 8 supporters being subjected to ‘harassment as a result of public disclosure of their support,’ including death threats, confrontational phone calls and e-mail messages, lost jobs, Internet blacklists, boycotts, vandalism and physical violence.”

Jean accuses the backers of Prop 8 of hiding.

“[It is] extraordinarily telling, that the backers of Proposition 8, who only months ago were spending millions of dollars to broadcast their lies and distortions about marriage equality up and down the state of California, are the ones [who petitioned] the courts to shield their anti-gay arguments from public view. They clearly know full well that without the appeals to fear and prejudice, which have become their stock-in-trade, they have no case to make against fairness and equal treatment for all Americans.

"But they should make no mistake ... whether or not cameras are there to record it, they will not be able to hide for very long the poverty of their arguments, or the injustice of their cause."