Proposition 8: Check Your Local Listings?

     December 29, 2009


Variety reports that there is an effort by a media coalition consisting of the major broadcast networks, Dow Jones & Co. and the Hearst Corporation to have the federal court trial over California’s Proposition 8, which restricts same-sex marriage in the state.  The plaintiffs do not object to the broadcasting of the trial nor do their attorneys.  However, cameras have never been allowed in federal courtrooms beyond covering oral arguments.

That may change with this case, officially called Perry v Schwarzenegger (who knew that he could do courtroom drama as well as action movies?), as there is an experimental basis with allowing coverage of some cases in order to better educate the public about the judicial process. The decision to broadcast and webcast the trial rests with U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker.  According to Variety, Walker has already set up an overflow courtroom with a closed-circuit feed, which will allow journalists to text and tweet during the proceedings (as long as it’s not disruptive so I hope no journalists LOL and certainly not ROTFLMAO or else everyone will be like WTF).

Hit the jump to learn why the defense is fighting against this attempt to broadcast the trial.

prop_8_protest_image_01.jpgHowever, defenders of the proposition (unsurprisingly) object citing that exposure may subject witnesses and litigants to intimidation and a broadcast will undermine the right to a fair trial.  Chris Cooper, attorney for the defense, referred to the heated aftermath of the 2008 election where Californians voted to amend their constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which was their dumbest decision since electing the star of Hercules in New York as their governor.  Cooper cites the harrowing aftermath of the decision marked by protest rallies, marches and, in some cases, boycotts.  To think that such non-violent, perfectly legitimate repercussions could happen again…it’s chilling to even think about it.

Thomas Burke, attorney and representative of the media coalition noted that since it’s a public trial, witnesses will be identified whether there are cameras or not.  Burke also points out that the case is in the interest of the public, saying, “It is not about a crime or an individual. The issues in this case are political, social, and religious.”

Here’s my question: if the proponents of Prop. 8 are so confident in their victory last November and believe it was right to amend the constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, then why wouldn’t they want to make their case in court with the whole nation watching live?  I think we’d all benefit by seeing this play out in real time, and not just in 140 characters or less.