By Peter J. Smith
SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 11, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Supreme Court has blocked a federal judge’s plans to tape the trial on the California same-sex “marriage” ban for public viewing. The Court will review the concerns of attorneys defending the state constitutional amendment, who argue that the standard policy of federal courts prohibiting cameras in the courtroom should be retained in light of the potential for harassment and intimidation of key witnesses.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California had ordered that the federal trial brought against Proposition 8 be recorded for public viewing and the proceedings posted on YouTube.
Walker was taking advantage of a new pilot program developed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow cameras into the courtrooms of federal non-jury civil trials.
The Associated Press reports that chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit had the Prop. 8 trial in view when he announced the pilot program on Dec. 17.
Kozinski argued for the program, saying that "being able to see and hear what transpires in the courtroom will lead to a better public understanding of our judicial processes and enhanced confidence in the rule of law." However Kozinski’s rationale has come into conflict with the underlying reason federal courts do not allow live media coverage of non-jury proceedings: to guarantee a fair trial by preventing the manipulation of witnesses through threats, harassment, or other forms of intimidation.
The Supreme Court’s emergency order will stand until Wednesday, when the Court will have enough time to review the matter to make a final decision.
Already one witness, San Francisco resident Hak-Shing William Tam, has asked to be dropped from among the five interveners on behalf of Prop. 8, citing the threats made against his family and his person during the campaign and the vandalism of his property, and his belief that the trial would make these threats worse.
Fears of intimidation and harassment are not unreasonable for the pro-family campaigners that fought for Proposition 8's passage, and a number of supporters were targeted for intimidation by homosexual activists who used the state's public disclosure database to identify backers of Proposition 8.
One egregious instance involved the El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeles, which came under siege by hundreds of homosexual protesters because the owner's daughter, Marjorie Christoffersen, had privately contributed $100 to Yes on 8. The rioting became so out of control at one point that the LA Police Department was forced to deploy in riot gear to quell the disturbance.
Although the case is called Perry v. Schwarzenegger, neither Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Attorney General Jerry Brown are mounting a defense on behalf of the constitutional amendment. Instead the challenge has been taken up by the pro-family groups that fought to make the California marriage amendment a reality.
Theodore Olson and David Boies - famous adversaries in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case - have joined brought the constitutional amendment to federal court to argue that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
The case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, and could have far-reaching implications for gay “marriage” bans in 30 states if Olson and Boies convince the high court to decide that these bans stand in violation of the 14th Amendment.
See related coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
Prop. 8 Trial Begins Today: "Roe v. Wade" of Marriage Battle
Federal Court Upholds Protection of Yes on Prop. 8 Campaign Docs
Unhappy with Democracy, Bush v. Gore Rivals Join to Ask Fed Court to Overturn Proposition 8