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AFER: Don't delay public's right to view historic Prop 8 trial video

SAN FRANCISCO – The plaintiffs in Perry v. Brown, the landmark federal lawsuit that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, filed a brief late Monday in opposition to an emergency motion for a stay pending appeal.

American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) argued that "the public has an overriding interest in immediate access to the video recordings so that it can scrutinize for itself the full trial record as this closely watched case progresses through the appellate process."

Proponents of Proposition 8 have again asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to restrain the public’s right to see the video recordings of the historic trial.

"Dissatisfied with their unconstitutional attempt to strip gay and lesbian Californians of their fundamental freedom to marry, the proponents yet again seek to subvert the bedrock principles of democracy,” said Chad Griffin, AFER board president.

“The American people have a well-established right under the First Amendment and common law to access the video recording of the Perry trial. Enough is enough. What are they trying to hide?"

U.S. District Chief Judge James Ware ruled on Sept. 19, 2011, that the video recording of the Proposition 8 trial should be released to the public. AFER’s legal team moved the District Court to unseal the video recording, citing the strong presumption of public access to judicial records and the lack of any factual evidence on behalf of proponents to keep the video secret.

Chief Judge Ware agreed with plaintiffs, stating in his decision:

"Foremost among the aspects of the federal judicial system that foster public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the process are public access to trials and public access to the record of judicial proceedings. ... Transparency is pivotal to the public perception of the judiciary’s legitimacy and independence."

Chief Judge Ware’s opinion was lauded by The New York Times editorial board on Monday. In the piece, they eviscerated the feeble arguments of the proponents’ anti-equality agenda noting, "[Proponents] are plainly concerned that releasing the videotape will further expose the emptiness of their arguments for denying gay people the freedom to marry. But in America, potential embarrassment is insufficient ground for denying the public access to vital court records in such a momentous case."

Also in Monday’s Times, former federal appellate judge and U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr, penned an opinion piece calling for cameras in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Starr wrote, "The benefits of increased access and transparency are many. Democracy’s first principles strongly support the people’s right to know how their government works." Prior to AFER's federal challenge to Proposition 8, Starr represented the proponents before the California Supreme Court in Strauss v. Horton.

Further reading

Read Chief Judge Ware’s full Sept. 19 decision HERE.

Read AFER’s Opposition For Stay HERE.

Read New York Times Editorial HERE.

Read Kenneth W. Starr’s New York Times Op-Ed HERE.

Read Media Coalition’s Opposition For Stay HERE.

About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sole sponsor of the Perry case. After bringing together Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to lead its legal team, AFER successfully advanced the Perry case through federal district court and is now leading it through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before the case is brought to the United States Supreme Court. The Foundation is committed to achieving full federal marriage equality.