Prop 8 Federal Trial

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Video of Prop 8 Trial Indefinitely

In a 5-4 decision today, the nation’s high court ruled to block video coverage of the trial challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and California’s ban on same-sex marriage, the Associated Press reported.

Proposition 8 was passed by California voters in November 2008. It was a ballot proposition designed to overturn a ruling by the California Supreme Court that had given same-sex couples a right to marry.  Proposition 8 was and is the subject of public debate throughout the State and, indeed, nationwide.  Its advocates claim that they have been subject to harassment as a result of public disclosure of their support. For example, donors to groups supporting Proposition 8 “have received death threats and envelopes containing a powdery white substance.” Some advocates claim that they have received confrontational phone calls and e-mail messages from opponents of Proposition 8, and others have been forced to resign their jobs after it became public that they had donated to groups supporting the amendment. Opponents of Proposition 8 also are alleged to have compiled “Internet blacklists” of pro-Proposition 8 businesses and urged others to boycott those businesses in retaliation for supporting the ballot measure.  And numerous instances of vandalism and physical violence have been reported against those who have been identified as Proposition 8 supporters.

Respondents filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking to invalidate Proposition 8. They contend that the amendment to the State’s Constitution violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The State of California declined to defend Proposition 8, and the defendant-intervenors (who are the applicants here) entered the suit to defend its constitutionality.  A bench trial began on Monday, January 11, 2010, before the Chief Judge of the District Court, the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker.

. . .

The balance of equities favors applicants [those who are against gay marriage].  While applicants have demonstrated the threat of harm they face if the trial is broadcast, respondents have not alleged any harm if the trial is not broadcast.  The issue, moreover, must be resolved at this stage, for the injury likely cannot be undone once the broadcast takes place.

There are few issues I cannot see both sides of. Blocking gay marriage is one of them. But blocking the live-streaming of the federal trial regarding the constitutionality of Prop 8 in order to protect those testifying in favor of rewriting the books to say marriage is between one man and one woman . . . I think I can get behind that. Let’s break this down:
Person A holds  a belief.
Person A has seen others punished for voicing that belief.
The legal system can offer a little protection for Person A if Person A decides to voice his/her belief in court.

That makes sense, no? That said, I do want to know who these people are. I mean, if you are going to get up in other people’s business, it is a bit hypocritical not to let them up into yours. The brief lists a number of offenses that warranted the protective ruling—confrontational phone calls/emails, threats, vandalism. None of these are appropriate/helpful/polite/safe/positive (though I am curious to know what constitutes as “confrontational”). But blacklisting seems like a very appropriate form of protest. Money is tight, and especially in California there is a desire to support local businesses. We want to support local businesses for environmental and economic reasons, but also communal reasons: we want to support our community. We want to build our community. But we want to build a healthy community. If I have to choose between buying bread from a person I know uses the profits to, say, feed the poor and a person I know uses the profits to, say, spread prejudice and hate because of a narrow interpretation of the Bible and an irrational fear of the other . . . I am going to go with Mother Teresa. Let’s break this down:
Empowered with knowledge, I will support what I deem to be positive influences on society rather than negative.
That’s the free market. Jesus says to love thy enemy . . . he doesn’t say to support him/her financially that they might use their prosperity to enlist others into their world of prejudice.

But all of this is beside the point I wanted to make. With the banning of the video, the voices of this trial (on both sides of the issue) are at risk of being lost. This is going to present an opportunity for Theater to step up. It’s going to be docudrama time when they release the transcripts! Who’s in!

Follow the trial:
NPR’s coverage

But enjoy this eloquent research-based rant first.


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