American Foundation for Equal Rights

NY Times: Going to the Videotape

The New York Times Editorial | View Original Post >

Last year, the United States Supreme Court blocked the broadcasting of the nonjury civil trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. That August, the measure was struck down by Judge Vaughn Walker of Federal District Court, who presided at the trial. The case is pending appeal.

On Monday, a lawyer representing the victorious plaintiffs will be urging a federal district judge in San Francisco, James Ware, to grant a motion to make public the videotape of the 12-day trial. In the interest of fostering confidence in the judicial system, the motion should be granted. Proposition 8′s supporters insisted that the broadcast ban was needed to protect their two witnesses — experts who testified in open court and whose identities were well known. Their arguments are even less persuasive now.

The trial was over more than a year ago, and the 13-volume trial transcript is public and available on the Internet. Legally, there is a presumption of access to judicial records, a point made in a brief filed by a media coalition, including The New York Times Company.

The demand to keep the videotapes secret is as flimsy as the arguments for denying gay people the fundamental right to marry. The proposition’s backers will not be hurt in any way if the footage is released. The American public, on the other hand, stands to lose something very valuable if it is denied the chance to see and hear what happened in a critically important case on marriage equality.