The sponsors of California’s ban on same-sex marriage asked a federal judge in San Francisco today to refuse to allow a broadcast of closing arguments on whether the measure is constitutional.
The closing arguments in a lawsuit challenging the voter-approved Proposition 8 are tentatively scheduled for June 16 in the court of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 sponsors, argued in a letter to Walker that a U.S. Supreme Court order blocking televising of the testimony portion of the trial in January should also apply to the closing arguments.
Cooper wrote that possible negative effects of broadcasting on judges and lawyers include “distraction, grandstanding and avoidance of unpopular decisions or positions.”
The letter asks that a request by 12 media organizations to broadcast the arguments should be “promptly rejected.”
Cooper noted that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in January said the high-profile case was not well-suited for a pilot broadcast project.
A broadcast of the arguments, if allowed, would be the first in nine western states under a pilot program approved by the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.
While cameras are allowed in the courtroom in California’s state court system, they have not been previously permitted in western federal courts.
The 12 media groups say that broadcasting would be in the public interest.
Their attorney, Thomas Burke, said today, “This is an important historic opportunity to let the public see firsthand the arguments pro and con that have been central to this case.”
Burke said he believes the Supreme Court majority’s concerns about inadequate public comment on the broadcast plan and televising of witnesses have been allayed, because the district court allowed for further public comment and there will be no live testimony during the arguments.
Walker will decide the Proposition 8 case without a jury and his ruling is expected to be appealed.
Proposition 8 was approved by California voters in 2008. Two same-sex couples claim in the case before Walker that it violates their federal constitutional right to equal treatment.