American Foundation for Equal Rights

AFER Asks U.S. District Court to Let Americans See Trial Videotapes

For Immediate Release


Press Contacts:
Elizabeth Riel 213-785-5352
Brandon Hersh 202-412-9766

Prop. 8 Proponents Desperately Trying to Hide Trial Tapes from Public

San Francisco – Today, Plaintiffs in Perry v. Brown – the case to overturn the ban on marriage for gay and lesbian Californians – urged Chief Judge James Ware to unseal the video recordings of the Proposition 8 trial, citing the strong presumption of public access to judicial records and the lack of any basis to keep the video secret. Prop. 8 was ruled unconstitutional in August 2010.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the sole sponsor of the Perry lawsuit.

During the Prop. 8 trial, then-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker allowed the entire trial proceedings to be videotaped. Because the trial tapes are now part of the District Court record and record on appeal, Plaintiffs contend that the First Amendment and the common law establish a strong presumption that these judicial records are open to the public.  Moreover, Prop. 8 Proponents have offered no legitimate reason or factual evidence to keep the entire video recording of the trial secret.

“We have a strong tradition of openness in this country and the First Amendment and common law make judicial records and proceedings presumptively open to the public.  This presumption applies with full force to videotaped record of this historic trial,” said AFER attorney Theodore J. Boutrous. “The Proponents have been utterly unable to explain why the public should be barred from seeing and hearing for themselves what happened in a public trial potentially affecting the rights of millions of Americans.  The real reason that the Proponents are fighting public release is that do not want the world to see the powerful evidence we submitted showing that Proposition 8 flatly violates the Constitution and the extraordinarily weak case that they put on trying to defend this discriminatory law.”


The City and County of San Francisco and Media Coalition members including The LA Times, CNN, The New York Times, FOX News, NBC News, The Associated Press and others filed briefs urging the court to release the videotapes of the public trial.

In addition, both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times editorial boards published editorials last week calling for the release of the Prop. 8 trial tapes, and The Los Angeles Times published an Op-Ed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press advocating for the public’s right to see the video recordings.  The full pieces can be read here:

Judge Ware said today that he would issue a ruling soon.

In an effort to make certain that the American public knows what happened at the Prop. 8 trial, AFER is teaming up with Broadway Impact to produce “8″, a play chronicling the historic trial, written by AFER Founding Board Member and Academy-Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black and directed by Tony Award-winning actor and director Joe Mantello.

The all-star cast includes Anthony Edwards, Morgan Freeman, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Lahti, Rob Reiner, Marisa Tomei, and Yeardley Smith, with more casting announcements to come.

Black, who penned the Academy-Award winning feature film “Milk,” based “8″ on the actual words of the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families.  It is set to premiere at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City on Monday, September 19, 2011 for an exclusive, one night only fundraiser to benefit AFER.

About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sole sponsor of the Perry case. After bringing together Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to lead its legal team, AFER successfully advanced the Perry case through federal district court and is now leading it through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before the case is brought to the United States Supreme Court. The Foundation is committed to achieving full federal marriage equality.