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Prop 8 supporters appeal to Supreme Court to prevent broadcast of trial

Saturday, January 9, 2010
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Gay marriage opponents have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and block video coverage a federal trial on the constitutionality California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Attorneys defending Proposition 8 and its ban on same-sex marriage filed the emergency appeal Saturday, arguing that their client’s right to a fair trial would be jeopardized.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles requests from the 9th Circuit appeals court, has given the other side until noon Sunday to file a response.

Kennedy can then rule himself or send the request to the full court, reports the NY Times.

Earlier this week U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, approved video coverage of the trial, set to take place in his court room in San Francisco, beginning Monday.

Walker’s ruling will allow the proceedings to be streamed live at certain federal courthouses across the country, and uploaded to the court’s YouTube channel.

On Friday, defense attorneys filed an emergency petition to the 9th Circuit Court to prevent the broadcast, which was promptly rejected.

In a one-paragraph order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Proposition 8 campaign had not presented reason for “intervention of this court” in the broadcast issue.

Lawyers for the Proposition 8 campaign had argued that Walker did not have the legal authority to permit cameras in the trial, and asserted that broadcasting the proceedings “is likely to negatively affect the fairness of the trial.”

“Many supporters of Proposition 8 who are being dragged into this case are fearful about being questioned about their personal, political and religious beliefs on the stand and having that televised,” said Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 campaign.

Walker’s ruling on Wednesday to allow a limited public broadcast of the trial is part of a pilot program put in place in December and authorized by Judge Alex Kozinski, Chief judge of the 9th Circuit. The program permits trial judges to allow cameras in civil, non-jury trials, breaking with federal court tradition generally banning the video of federal court cases.

Also on Friday, one of the Prop 8 sponsors asked to be removed as a defendant in the case because he feared for his life.

Hak-Shing William Tam said the trial would bring him unwarranted publicity and possible retribution from supporters of same-sex marriage.

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