The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked
broadcast of the first federal case to challenge the
constitutionality of a gay marriage ban.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R.
Walker is presiding over Perry v Schwarzenegger, now in its
third day. At issue is the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the
gay marriage ban approved by voters in 2008.
Walker green lit a plan to broadcast
the trial in other federal courthouses in California, New York,
Oregon and Washington. He was also considering posting footage of
the trial on YouTube, the video-sharing website owned by Google.
Supporters of Proposition 8 submitted
their last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court on Saturday.
In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court
chastised the trial court for attempting “to change its rules at
the eleventh hour.”
“The broadcast in this case should be
stayed because it appears the courts below did not follow the
appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their
rules to allow such broadcasting,” the court said in an unsigned 27
Walker was acting after a pilot program
that would for the first time allow cameras in civil trials was
approved by the governing body for federal courts in Western states.
But justices disagreed. Calling the trial “divisive,” they said
it was “not a good one for a pilot program.”
Challengers to Proposition 8 had
welcomed the broadcast. A coalition of media organizations,
including network broadcasters, CNN and Court TV, had also argued in
favor of allowing cameras in the courtroom.
“If there is a public benefit to
public trials – and there is – then there is also a public
benefit to complete access to public trials,” lawyers representing
the media group said in an amicus filing.
But supporters of Proposition 8 said
the trial “has the potential to become a media circus” in their
appeal. “The record is already replete with evidence showing that
any publicizing of support for Prop. 8 has inevitably led to
harassment, economic reprisal, threats, and even physical violence.”