Prop 8 supporters fight to keep cameras out of the courtroom

Timothy Kincaid

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. (

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.


January 9th, 2010

I wish some political cartoonist would create a drawing of a prop 8 defender taking the stand in a pointy white hood.

No, it’s not the same level of terrorism that the KKK wages against black Americans, but it’s the same wish to hide bigotry behind a mask.

Richard W. Fitch

January 9th, 2010

What might work better is a dunce cap with a heavy veil.

paul j stein

January 9th, 2010

Looking kinda like the guy who lives in the Vatican maybe? I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin!

Stefano A

January 9th, 2010

In my opinion, the decision for Bill Tam to pull out was probably a strategic decision made on the part of the Pro 8 lawyers in hopes that his testimony would not be introduced to the public. (Just a speculation).

As an FYI . . . In a New Yorker piece by Margaret Talbot discussing Perry and Gill, Talbot mentioned:

. . . to help establish animus they (Boies and Olson) plan to introduce as evidence material from the “Yes on 8” campaign that lawyers for the opposing side consider confidential. Among other documents, they have obtained a fund-raising letter from a pro-8 activist named Bill Tam, which warned that if Proposition 8 lost “other states would fall into Satan’s hand”, and “every child, when growing up, would fantasize marrying someone of the same sex”. . . .

Obviously, in a case attempting to prove animus Charles Cooper wouldn’t want such comments highlighted. It would totally blow their cover that pro Prop 8 folks don’t dislike gay people but are just trying to privilege their particular religious beliefs about marriage.

Regan DuCasse

January 9th, 2010

I’m so OVER this ‘the gays are going to be MEAN to us! The gays are intimidating us and we fear for our safety!’


The exaggeration and claims are way beyond outrageous, they are in the realm of delusion now. Yeah, right…running for cover and going into hiding as if they suddenly got dropped into gay “Zombieland.”

The execution of Lawrence King, the assault on the Susuzchanay brothers or the gang rape of a lesbian up in the Bay area are REAL, to say nothing of the millions of people who anonymously tried to forcibly divorce thousands of gay couples: Gay lives are directly and negatively affected any day of the week.

So if the Prop. 8 supporters are SO good with the consequences of their ‘the people have spoken’ majority vote, then they can damn well own it and defend it in court before the people too!

Stefano A

January 9th, 2010

Ah. I see in another post you elaborated on Tam. (Thumbs up!)

Stefano A

January 9th, 2010

Regan DuCasse


I, too, am totally fed up with that line of demonization and wish the main stream would stop playing into it. By that, I mean I wish they would start demanding proof via court records/complaints, direct correlations, instead of this “x said” crapola as if everyone should just take their word for it.

Stefano A

January 9th, 2010

By complaints I mean actual police complaints filed where charges, investigations and arrests were made.


January 10th, 2010

I just *love* how the oppressors are now crying that they’re being oppressed!

They have no clue what it’s like, and bigots like Maggie and her ilk are generally cowards and bullies who’ve tried to get their way through fearmongering and scapegoating the voters.

It’s very different in court, where the law is the one in control, not emotion — and that’s what the bigots are afraid of!


January 10th, 2010

These people don’t want prop 8 because they say their god says mariage is between a man and a woman. They’re worried about retribution? What better way to show their belief than to not be worried about retribution because, won’t their god protect them? Put them on TV. As a matter of fact, go to everyone’s house that is against gay marriage, film them saying it along with their address and them saying they’re protected and NOTHING can possibly happen to them because their god says so. Let them show their true beliefs and feelings.

David Scott

January 10th, 2010

It should go without saying that a person should be allowed to marry whomever they choose. Until the right-wing, religious fanatics in this country stop trying to control everybody else and force their “morals” down the throat of the country, there can be no real freedom in the United States. I invite you to my web pages devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on our freedom:


January 10th, 2010

In addition to not really wanting to own their words in public for fear of serious analysis, perhaps the greater fear of the Prop 8 folks is the YouTube ‘backlash’.
Just think about the responses to NoM’s idiotic commercials and then consider the creative potential in all that court testimony. To be threatened (however much exaggeration is included to get to something that can be called a threat) can be spun as persecution. To be laughed at? Not so much.

B John

January 10th, 2010

I agree with the general tone of the comments here. I suspect the Prop 8 supporters realize they really have nothing on which to stand except bigotry. As one person pointed out, in Court, they won’t be able to just play on emotions.

Given that, it’s pretty obvious they don’t want the world to see what is really behind the curtain.


January 12th, 2010

“Gallagher and crew aren’t afraid that they will be targeted for hateful email or a vengeful grocery clerk”

I disagree. I think they believe what they say. What’s that saying? “Never identify as malevolent what you can blame on stupidity.”

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