A federal trial over Proposition 8, the California law that bans same-sex marriages, will be open to the public. But only a very small percentage of the public will actually get to witness it.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the trial could not be telecast outside the San Francisco federal courthouse, which will have just 36 seats available for the public. After a pilot program was created to allow the telecast of some noninjury civil trials heard in federal courts, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the trial, had ordered the trial telecast live to a handful of courthouses across the U.S. He also ordered a delayed posting of the trial on YouTube.
But the Supreme Court, in striking down Walker's order, said he had violated the San Francisco court requirement of 30 days of public comment for changes in its rules — in this case, approving telecast of the trial. The court also said this case was the wrong one to use to test the pilot program, saying the potential for harm is greater in a contentious, high-profile case.
Walker said there was an immediate need to suspend the 30-day requirement. He said he received more than 138,000 comments from the public in a week, almost all of them positive. But the court ruled that Walker’s claim was invalid because disallowing the telecast would harm neither side in the case, and sponsors of Proposition 8 argued the telecast would deny them a fair trial by subjecting their witnesses to intimidation and harassment.
Should California’s same-sex marriage case be telecast to test the new pilot program for broadcasting trials?