U.S. Supreme Court blocks broadcast of same-sex marriage trial

Calls SF judge's action 'attempt to change rules at the 11th hour'

The U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote Wednesday blocked the broadcasting of a federal trial in San Francisco on the constitutionality of California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The trial began Monday before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker and is the first federal trial in the nation on a U.S. constitutional

challenge to same-sex marriage limits.

California's ban was enacted by voters in 2008 as Proposition 8.

The broadcasting authorized by Walker last week would have included a live video feed to five other federal courthouses and a delayed Internet broadcast on a government channel on YouTube.

It would have been the first televising of a federal trial in western states, under a pilot program announced by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

But the high court majority, ruling in an emergency appeal filed by the sponsors of Proposition 8, said the district court failed to provide enough time for public notice and comment on the broadcasting.

The majority said in a 17-page ruling that the trial court "attempted to change its rules at the 11th hour" in a way that "could compromise the orderly, decorous, rational traditions that courts rely upon."

The panel granted an indefinite stay that continues a temporary stay it issued Monday one hour before the trial began.

The stay will remain in effect until the Proposition 8 sponsors file a full appeal of Walker's order and receive a ruling -- a process that normally would not be completed until long after the two-week trial is completed.

The stay applies to the plan to allow the live video feed to the five other federal courthouses at the 9th Circuit in San Francisco and in Pasadena, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

The related plan to allow delayed broadcast on YouTube was not before the court because it had not yet been approved by 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. But the court majority's reasoning for granting the stay would apply to the YouTube plan as well.

In addition to citing inadequate public notice, the majority said Proposition 8 sponsors showed they could be harmed by broadcasting because of alleged potential intimidation and harassment of witnesses.

It also said that because the high-profile trial concerns a contentious issue, "This case is therefore not a good one for a pilot program."

The five judges in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito. The decision was a "by-the-court" ruling that did not indicate the author.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a 10-page dissent that there was adequate public notice, that there was no evidence of harm to witnesses and that the majority was seeking to "micromanage" local court rules.

Breyer, joined by Justices John Paul Stephens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said, "The public interest weighs in favor of providing access."

Thomas Burke, a lawyer representing 12 media organizations that urged the courts to allow broadcasting, said, "It's obviously disappointing. This was an extraordinary opportunity to let the public know what is happening in this case."

Burke said, "It's obvious to me that a nerve has been struck on the court, for the entire court to issue a 5-4 decision.

"The entire court believes this is an extraordinary event taking place in San Francisco," Burke said.

A spokesman for Proposition 8's sponsors and their campaign committee,, was not available for comment.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the pro-gay-marriage Courage Campaign Institute, said, "The Supreme Court just struck a huge blow against transparency and accountability."

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said, "We are deeply disappointed with the high court's ruling."

Meanwhile, the trial continued today in Walker's Federal Building courtroom with testimony from two expert witnesses on behalf of the two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit in May.

George Chauncey, a Yale University history professor, testified that television advertisements used by Proposition 8 supporters in the 2008 ballot campaign reflected arguments used to oppose gay rights for the past several decades.

The advertisements "draw on a long history of hostility and stereotypes and fear," he told Walker.

Chauncey was followed to the stand by Letitia Peplau, a psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, who testified about the effects of marriage on individuals' health and well-being.

Thursday's witnesses will include the chief economist of the city of San Francisco, a Columbia University professor and author Helen Zia.

The lawsuit plaintiffs, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, contend that Proposition 8 violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal treatment.

Walker will decide the case without a jury.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Trial perhaps?

Like this comment
Posted by PToWN94566
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2010 at 12:31 am

PToWN94566 is a registered user.

It's because supporters of Prop 8 are scared someone will lash out at them. Kind of ironic seeing that Gay people have been discriminated against for ages...

Like this comment
Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Jan 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

Ironic or moronic? There have been death threats and physically violent attacks on those who would dare stand up to the vocal minority that presumes that all their protestation is in the name of 'love'.
It's all about money and power (power of attorney, death benefits, inheritance, etc.), just like all things political.

Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

This continues to be a waste of tax payer money...

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 14, 2010 at 9:30 am

It's good to see the 14th Amendment in the spotlight!

America will once again show its grit and demonstrate to the world what makes it great.


Like this comment
Posted by Isn't it ironic?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

That prop 8 supporters don't want this to be aired because the are afraid of being harrassed absolutely drips with irony and speaks to their true character.
And, I'm a heterosexual stay-at-home parent opposed to Prop 8.

Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

This is a great decision by the Court. Video cameras have no place in the court room, as it creates a huge distraction to the proceedings, and lawyers love to perform if they have an audience. It is especially important in this case that it be decided on its merits and not be turned into a big media circus.

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Jan 15, 2010 at 4:15 am

A quote from posted on thier blog:

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court Stays Order Allowing Streaming Video of Prop 8 Case
by Carla Hass - Communications Director on January 11th, 2010

Just minutes ago, the United States Supreme Court stayed the order of Judge Vaughn Walker that would have allowed for streaming video in the case challenging Proposition 8, Perry v Schwarzenegger. Walker previously had agreed to provide a video stream of the trial on a daily basis through YouTube. The Perry case would have been the first trial ever in the Ninth Circuit where cameras had been allowed in the courtroom. vigorously fought Walker’s order by appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then filing an emergency appeal with Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

The stay order is in effect until Wednesday, January 13th at 4:00pm eastern time to permit the Supreme Court time for further consideration.

Andy Pugno, General Counsel for said, “The temporary stay of Judge Walker’s ruling to allow broadcast of the Perry v Schwarzenegger trial is a good sign that the full United States Supreme Court will give this immediate attention and hopefully protect our right to a fair and impartial trial.”

The full text of the order is below.

Upon consideration of the application for stay presented to

Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court, it is ordered

that the order of the United States District Court for the

Northern District of California, case No. 3:09-cv-02292,

permitting real-time streaming is stayed except as it permits

streaming to other rooms within the confines of the courthouse in

which the trial is to be held. Any additional order permitting

broadcast of the proceedings is also stayed pending further order

of this Court. To permit further consideration in this Court,

this order will remain in effect until Wednesday, January 13,

2010, at 4 p.m. eastern time

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

wha chu gonna do wha chu gonna say...what's gonna happen to you kelly if your side loses...hmmmmmmmm...?

kelly is on a roll...tee hee hee, tee hee know how to cut 'n paste like ruthy!

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