SAN FRANCISCO, September 26, 2011 ( – Marriage defenders in California are outraged by a federal judge’s ruling to release tapes of the Proposition 8 trial proceedings that the U.S. Supreme Court forbade from being televised last year.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Ware in San Francisco ruled Sept. 19 in favor of two homosexual couples asking to unseal videos of the last year’s proceedings. “Foremost among the aspects of the federal judicial system that foster public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the process are public access to trials and public access to the record of judicial proceedings,” Ware wrote.

The Supreme Court in January 2010 issued an emergency order overturning Proposition 8 judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to broadcast the trial. At the time, the high court criticized Walker for “attempt[ing] to change its rules at the 11th hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district.”

But Ware said that now that the trial is over, the videos are a part of court record, and the Supreme Court ruling no longer suffices to prevent public access.

The lawsuit relating to the videos began as a consequence of the controversy after Judge Walker played the tapes during a speech that was broadcast on C-Span.

Debra Saunders, a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Gate, pointed out that Ware himself was the one who had originally handed over the videos to Walker. Saunders called it “judicial hubris” that Ware “felt no need to recuse himself” from the ensuing debate over the videos.

“It shows the arrogance of this district that its present and former chief judge treated sealed evidence like a trophy,” she wrote.

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Saunders noted that conservatives’ objection to releasing the videos is well-founded, as gay activists have frequently succeeded in publicly branding Prop 8 donors as “bigots,” with the result that businesses have been harassed and Prop. 8 supporters have been forced to resign from their jobs.  In one particularly egregious case, a riot broke out outside the El Coyote restaurant just after Prop 8’s passage, because the owner’s daughter contributed $100 to the “Yes on 8” campaign.

“Let’s say you believe in broadcasting trials purely on principle. In that case, Prop. 8 would be the last case you would propose for the debut of witness testimony,” wrote Saunders. “Clearly would-be Yes-on-8 witnesses had reason to fear that they would be harassed.”

While the question of broadcasting the trials was still pending before the Supreme Court, San Francisco resident Hak-Shing William Tam pleaded to be dropped from among the five interveners supporting Prop 8, citing threats made against himself and his family based on his marriage views.

The Proposition 8 defense has filed an emergency motion in the Ninth Circuit to stay Ware’s ruling and “restore some sanity to this case.”

“Today’s decision is bizarre for many reasons, but mostly because it defies a direct order of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Andy Pugno, General Counsel to, the official sponsors of Prop 8, in a statement last week.