Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Judge allows televising of Prop. 8 trial

Bay City News service reports that a federal judge in San Francisco today approved the broadcasting on YouTube of a trial that begins next week on a lawsuit challenging California's same-sex marriage ban.

The video, which can be seen on the Internet or rebroadcast by television stations, will be the first time that a federal trial in Western states has been broadcast.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said at a pretrial hearing, "I think it's worth attempting in a case of this nature and of this public interest."

Walker will preside beginning on Monday over a two-week non-jury trial on a lawsuit in which two same-sex couples claim the state's ban on gay and lesbian marriage violates their federal constitutional rights.

The measure was enacted by California voters in 2008 as Prop. 8.

The trial itself will be the first in the nation on a federal constitutional challenge to restrictions on same-sex marriage, according to Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The video will be taken by the court staff and transmitted to YouTube, where it will be posted after a delay.

The broadcasting was made possible when the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month approved a pilot program to allow cameras in federal courtrooms in civil nonjury trials in nine western states.

Walker's plan to allow broadcasting of the Proposition 8 trial must be approved by Chief 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski.

Walker turned down an offer by In Session, formerly known as Court TV, to do professional recording and broadcasting. The judge said, "I think it's important for the process to be completely under the court's control."

He said he will halt the broadcasting if it turns out to be distracting or to cause problems.

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