Federal judge orders release of Proposition 8 trial recordings

James Ware

James Ware

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Ware on Monday ordered the release of the video and audio tapes of the Proposition 8 trial.

James Ware

In his 16-page ruling, Ware cited the need to preserve the integrity of the federal judiciary and stated that he saw no compelling reason keeping the tapes under seal, even as the case works its way through the appellate process with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ware’s order noted that “unless “a further stay is granted by the Court on timely motion or by a higher court,” the recordings will be available to the public on Friday, Sept. 30.

Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who presided over the 2010 trial and now retired, initially sought to have the proceedings broadcast live in various federal courthouses around the country. But Yes on 8 attorneys quickly appealed that ruling and eventually won a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court prohibited Walker from making a videotape or broadcast of the proceedings available beyond the San Francisco federal courthouse itself.But Walker did videotape the trial himself, saying he wanted to use the videotapes for his own use in preparing the decision in the case.

“The anti-marriage Proponents of Prop. 8 are fighting tooth and nail to keep the public from seeing what really happened,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), in a statement. “Americans should be able to see for themselves what happens when discrimination is put on trial.”

AFER is an organization formed specifically to finance the legal challenge to Proposition 8.

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) called Ware’s ruling “a great victory for openness and transparency.”

“Our democracy depends on the public’s right to know what takes place inside our nation’s federal courts, especially in cases addressing fundamental constitutional rights that affect every person,” Minter said in a statement. “The proponents of Prop 8 should be ashamed for fighting to bar public access to this historic trial.”

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