Prop 8 supporters fight to keep cameras out of the courtroom
January 9th, 2010
Judge Vaughn Walker has decided that the Olson-Boies case to find Proposition 8 in violation of the US Constitution will be recorded and available on YouTube. Those defending the proposition and seeking to keep California from legally recognizing same-sex marriages are desperate that this not happen.
Their public argument is that video coverage would turn the case into a “media circus” and that they would be targets of retribution. In a fiery denunciation of the judge’s decision, National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher raged:
On Oct. 22, the Heritage Foundation released a report titled “The Price of Prop. 8,” which concluded that “supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry.”
To deliberately and needlessly expose these people to a new wave of publicity and attacks by televising the trial is outrageous.
And indeed one of the five official sponsors of Proposition 8 (whom I’ve never heard of) has requested to be removed from the case.
On Friday, Tam told U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that he fears for his and his family’s safety. In his court filing, Tam’s lawyers say the trial will bring him unwanted publicity and expose him to retribution from gay marriage supporters.
Tam also says the case has been more time-consuming and more intrusive into his personal life than expected.
But what Gallagher and Tam and the other supporters of Proposition 8 fail to mention is that they volunteered for this case. In fact, when Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown expressed no interest in defending the initiative, Tam petitioned the court requesting that he be allowed to do so.
And their concern that they be identified or targeted seems disingenuous. The proceedings are not going to occur in a secluded and private setting where the witnesses will be kept a secret. Every witness will be known and every testimony blogged about.
Tam certainly got more media attention from dropping out of the case than he would have if he’d just gone through with it.
And yet they are frantic that there be no video. The supporters of Prop 8 appealed the judge’s decision, but yesterday they were denied (SJ Merc)
A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a bid by Proposition 8 supporters to block the broadcast of the upcoming trial involving a challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban, refusing to stop a plan to post the proceedings on YouTube.
In a one-paragraph order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Proposition 8 campaign had not presented reason for “intervention by this court” in the broadcast issue.
But this wasn’t the end of their effort. They have now made an emergency application to the Supreme Court asking Justice Kennedy to block camera coverage. The Olson-Boies team has until noon on Sunday to respond (the case starts on Monday).
I do not believe Gallagher and the Prop 8 supporters’ public reasons for wishing to keep the trial from being recorded. I think that their true motivation is better understood from another argument they made. (Law.com)
Lawyers representing the Yes on 8 campaign objected to any broadcast beyond an overflow room in the San Francisco federal building, arguing that witnesses would be intimidated, or change their testimony. [emphasis added]
Change their testimony?
If their witnesses are telling the truth, wouldn’t their testimony be the same in either case?
It seems not. And here is why.
There is a record made of every word said at every trial. But this record generally is not readily accessible to the public. Words said, arguments made, all are lost to dusty volumes and forgotten.
Further, few people ever hear or read what any individual witness has to say. In a high profile trial, reporters will provide the gist of a testimony or paraphrase but the public doesn’t really hear or see
But a video recording of testimony makes their words accessible and permanent. There will be transcripts posted across the internet and for the rest of our lives there will be ready and immediate access to video of each witness making statements in support of banning gay Californians from marrying.
And clearly some of their witnesses are reluctant to testify publicly. They want to say words that the public will never hear and for which they will never be held accountable.
What is it that they don’t want the public to know? What are they reluctant to say in front of the voters who they claim to defend?
“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.”
I suspect that regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, this case is a winner for us. This lawsuit will expose the intents, methods, and agenda of those who oppose equality. And video of their testimony will be, I believe, a very valuable tool to achieving equality.
And voter initiative battles will never be the same.
Gallagher and crew aren’t afraid that they will be targeted for hateful email or a vengeful grocery clerk squishing their tomatoes. They aren’t worried that their witness will have someone call them a bigot.
I think that what they truly fear is that what they have to say in court will look ugly and obscene when played on the news or in commercials during the next “protect marriage” battle.