Broadcasting the Prop. 8 Trial

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The federal trial regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 is set to begin tomorrow. The district court judge who will be presiding over the trial has decided to have the trial broadcast live at several other federal courthouses and to post the entire proceedings on YouTube on a delayed basis. The Ninth Circuit rejected an appeal by the supporters of Proposition 8 to keep cameras out of the courtroom. Now, the supporters of Proposition 8 filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower courts’ decisions and to keep the proceedings from being televised.

The supporters of Proposition 8 oppose having cameras in the courtroom in part because the witnesses would be intimidated by having to speak in front of a potentially large, televised audience–even though many of the witnesses are academics who are accustomed to speaking in front of groups. Even more amazingly, the supporters of Proposition 8 have argued that the trial should not be televised because they fear harassment.  The Advocate story on the emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court contains the following quote:

The trial”has the potential to become a media circus,”attorney Charles Cooper wrote in the emergency appeal to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.”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. In this atmosphere, witnesses are understandably quite distressed at the prospect of their testimony being broadcast worldwide on YouTube.”

This is only the latest example of oppressors rhetorically morphing themselves into victims. In a country where it is legal in the majority of states  to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation–that is, to fire someone from their employment or refuse to rent or sell property to them because they are lesbian or gay–and where bias crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation are on the rise (see here and here), it is truly disingenuous for those who perpetuate, facilitate, or contribute to an environment that fosters such discrimination and violence to throw themselves on the mercy of others because they fear harassment.

Update: According to The Advocate, the Supreme Court has allowed cameras into the courtroom for the trial, but it has blocked the posting of the trial on YouTube, at least for the first few days of trial while it takes more time to consider the issue.

-Tony Infanti

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