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Appeals court is asked to release Proposition 8 trial video

LOS ANGELES -- In response to efforts by the Proposition 8 proponents to conceal video of the Prop. 8 trial from the public, a number of media outlets and advocates called for the full and unedited release of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger public trial footage.

American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the City and County of San Francisco, and media coalition members including the Los Angeles Times, CNN, The New York Times, FOX News, NBC News and The Associated Press each filed briefs urging the court to release the videotapes of the public trial, the transcripts of which have always been public.

"Why should the public be denied the opportunity to see and hear what happened in a public trial in a public courtroom in a case involving the constitutional rights of millions of people?" said Theodore J. Boutrous, AFER attorney.

"The proponents of Prop. 8 have repeatedly attempted to obscure and distort the facts of this trial because they simply have no case and they seem desperately anxious to prevent the American public from seeing the facts for themselves."

Chad Griffin, AFER board president, echoed sentiments once made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in regards to another public disclosure case (Doe v. Reed) that, "Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."

"Prop. 8 supporters waged a very public and very negative multimillion-dollar campaign to block gay and lesbian couples from marrying,” Griffin said. “If they truly believe in the campaign they waged, they should publicly stand by their defense of Prop. 8 in federal court and not try to stop public access to the trial proceedings. This case involves the constitutional rights of millions of people, therefore it is especially important for the public to see what happened during trial."

In its brief to the court, media coalition members argued that the case "continues to be closely watched because the legality of California's Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage is of profound interest to millions. Permitting public access to the video recordings of the trial proceedings will only enhance the public's understanding of and provide confidence in the court's ultimate resolution of this matter."

AFER also launched a campaign encouraging supporters of marriage equality to sign a petition requesting the full and unedited release of the trial tapes. See HERE.

Below are excerpts from AFER's brief, which can be read in full HERE.

"Proponents' fierce determination to shield access by any member of the American public to the actual compelling evidence which demonstrated the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 and the paucity of evidence that Proponents presented in its defense directly conflicts with this Nation's constitutional commitment to public and open judicial process and serves no legitimate public end.

"Although Proponents expended tens of millions of dollars on a public campaign to restore discrimination in California that the state Supreme Court had struck down, they now seek to prevent the public from ever observing first-hand their efforts in a public courtroom to defend that discrimination and the exposure of those efforts to the acid test of cross-examination in open court. The present motion is their latest attempt to prevent the public from witnessing that trial."

"Proponents have not remotely overcome the exacting burdens imposed by the First Amendment and the common law as prerequisites for throwing a blanket over a true, accurate and unedited record of a widely publicized public trial of an exceedingly important constitutional issue affecting millions of Americans."

The media coalition's brief can be read in full HERE.

The City and County of San Francisco's brief can be read in full HERE.