Supreme Court Rules No Video for Prop 8

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

On Jan. 13 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned opinion that officially banned video recording in the California court room where the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage, is being debated.

The majority opinion claimed Judge Vaughn Walker acted too hastily in his decision to allow broadcasting of the trial to the public, yet the same argument could be made about the Supreme Court. The emergency ban allowed the Supreme Court three short days to review the issue and culminated with the public being denied access to the trial proceedings on YouTube. According to the Supreme Court’s dissent, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, 42 state courts and two federal district courts currently give judges the discretion to broadcast civil non-jury trials.

In a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling against broadcasting the trial, in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Dissenting Justices included Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and John Paul Stevens. The biggest argument against broadcasting the trial was concern for the safety of the pro-Prop 8 witnesses. This concern was addressed in the written dissent:

“All of the witnesses supporting the applicants are already publicly identified with their cause. They are all experts or advocates who have either already appeared on television or Internet broadcasts, already toured the State advocating a ‘yes’ vote on Proposition 8, or already engaged in extensive public commentary…”

It should be noted that four months prior to the start of the trial, Judge Walker vocalized the desire to broadcast the Prop 8 trial, and no party objected at that time to the presence of cameras. The Supreme Court should have made an effort to uphold the first amendment and taken the opportunity to embrace the technological realities of the 21st century. The Prop 8 trial is expected to last two weeks, so be sure to check back here for more updates as the proceedings continue.

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