Media groups seek broadcast rights of Prop.8 trial arguments next month

Earlier requests denied by U.S. Supreme Court due to witness intimidation concerns

A bid to broadcast part of a historic same-sex marriage trial resurfaced in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday.

A group of 12 media organizations formally asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow cameras in the courtroom for the final arguments in a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on gay and lesbian marriage.

Attorney Thomas Burke wrote that the organizations, known as the Media Coalition, are interested in "recording, broadcasting and webcasting the closing arguments."

The arguments are tentatively scheduled for June 16.

Testimony in the nonjury trial was heard by Walker in January and was not televised because the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a broadcast plan by a 5-4 vote.

The high court majority said the U.S. District Court in San Francisco failed to allow enough time for public notice and comment on a rule change allowing the broadcast.

It also said Proposition 8 supporters had raised a reasonable argument that witnesses could be intimidated by cameras.

Since then, the district court reopened the comment period, which ended March 4, and on April 20 authorized broadcasting within a pilot project previously approved by the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

Broadcasts in the pilot project must be approved by both Walker, who is chief judge of the district court, and 9th U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The Media Coalition letter asks the two judges for approval.

The letter says public comment has now been allowed and concerns about possible intimidation of witnesses are not an issue because there will be no testimony in the closing arguments.

On Jan. 11, one hour before the trial began, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to a plan for a live video feed to five other federal courthouses around the country and a delayed Internet broadcast on a government channel on YouTube.

Two days later, the court issued a 5-4 ruling and stay that indefinitely blocked the plan. The ruling was made in an emergency appeal filed by the sponsors of Proposition 8.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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