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Judge jumped the gun in allowing broadcast of same-sex marriage case

If I were a legislator, I'd vote to legalize same-sex marriage. And if it were up to me, I'd allow cameras in federal courts. So why am I having trouble with a federal judge’s decision to allow YouTube broadcasts of the trial challenging California’s gay marriage ban?

Maybe it's because I think judges should be impeccably fair, adhere without agenda to the rule of law and be as transparent as possible, so that even those who disagree with their decisions may nevertheless respect those decisions. Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the gay marriage case, has failed on these counts.

Walker performed legal pirouettes worthy of "Dancing with the Stars" to ensure cameras in his courtroom for the same-sex marriage trial. Keep in mind that a federal trial has never before been televised and that Vaughn's court and the administrative body that sets rules for all federal courts have consistently rejected audio or visual broadcasts. As it happens, Walker sat on a three-judge committee of his court convened last fall to consider crafting rules for possible trial broadcasts. He has acknowledged that the same-sex marriage case, filed earlier last year, “was thought to be an ideal candidate for consideration.”

In many ways, the case is indeed a perfect candidate. It’s a bench trial, meaning the judge presides and decides -- there’s no jury that could be swayed by cameras or coverage. Lawyers on both sides of the case are among the best in the country and veterans of multiple high-profile cases. So they should be able to perform professionally without turning the proceedings into a circus. And there is unquestionably high public interest in viewing the proceedings and understanding the outcome.

But rather than accept that the legal framework for trial broadcasts was not yet in place, Walker cut corners and rushed through proposed changes in the proverbial dead of night -- on New Year's Eve, no less. He also went way beyond the limited and controlled broadcasts approved by the chief judge of the federal circuit. And he gave short shrift to opponents of gay marriage, who argued that broadcasting the proceedings would subject them to increased harassment by gay marriage supporters. The gay marriage opponents turned to the U.S. Supreme Court, which today put a temporary hold on broadcasting proceedings and will announce on Wednesday whether broadcasts will be permanently barred.

I believe that televising federal court trials of this significance serves an important public purpose and will help to legitimatize the work of the courts. I also don't think that the kinds of concerns raised by the opponents of gay marriage generally should derail broadcasts; they're not, after all, in the witness protection program testifying against Mafia bosses. But Judge Walker didn’t allow sufficient time for those and other concerns to be raised and considered. If I can't trust Judge Walker to be unflinchingly fair about something that simple, how can I trust him to be fair to both sides when deeply held beliefs and constitutional rights are at stake?

By Eva Rodriguez  | January 11, 2010; 7:25 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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I guess Rodriguez forgot the aftermath of Prop 8 when mobs took to the streets, smashed windows, burnt cars, and generally acted like Nazis because voters dared to express their constitutional rights at the polls.

She also appears to have missed the fact that the names of supporters of Measure 8 were published, presumably so opponents could identify these persons and then share their "opinions" with the supporters of Measure 8.

Since Aids and ACT UP there is a very angry and militant segment of the gay community whose tactics include harassment and intimidation. When they don't get their way they resort to such tactics.

The only purposed served by broadcasting the proceedings is to wage a campaign of fear and intimidation.

Posted by: krankyman | January 11, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

oy.. to the comments of both Ms. Rodriguez and krankyman.

The judge obviously could control the broadast. it was not a live feed. and you're right, Ms. Rodriguez, this is a perfect case for broadcast. no jury, etc.

as for krankyman... listen.. if you cannot stand by the courage of your convictions on a federal witness stand in front of the entire nation to testify that your neighbors deserve to be second class citizens, you have no business being there.

it's like the named intervenor who now wants out of the case because it has interfered too much with his family's "privacy." oooooo he was perfectly okay meddling in the family lives of millions of other Californians, but god forbid he have to defend that meddling. free speech has a two-edged aspect. you have the right to say what you want/believe, but nothing says you get exempted from the freely expressed words of others that you unleash.

Posted by: mikhastur | January 12, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Krankan has excellent points. We need also to remember the OJ Simpson trial. It was also televised and it turned into a real circus. To make matters worse, because it was such a circus, a murderer walked free. Prop 8 supporters acted according to the rule of law in passing Prop 8. The opponents resort to hateful intimidation of anyone who opposes them. Remember Miss California? Using fear and intimidation on witnesses only undermines and sabatoges the rule of law, destroying the foundational basis that our nation was founded on.

Posted by: ChasR | January 12, 2010 2:22 AM | Report abuse

The irony is the Supreme Court's temporary decision to prevent video broadcasts recognizes protection for the defendants who are the same individuals who don't believe gay or lesbians need laws protecting them from opposing, retaliatory reactions.

Posted by: jefferythompson3 | January 12, 2010 3:36 AM | Report abuse

If the gay community had acted responsively after Prop 8 passed and not acted so nasty with straight people, then there would have been no basis in which to deny the live feed. The gay community actually brought this upon themselves.

Posted by: ChasR | January 12, 2010 4:06 AM | Report abuse

If it would help teach people to stay out of each others bedrooms and pants, I'd be all for not broadcasting any federal trial.

Posted by: Nymous | January 12, 2010 4:53 AM | Report abuse

It is pro-homosexual, federal judges appointed by pro-homosexual, liberal politicians and publicized by the pro-homosexual, liberal media that is desperately trying to ram a complete pro-homosexual agenda down the throats of an unwilling and increasingly hostile American populace.

It is tyranny by court order. It is not democracy. It is not even a representative republic.

It is liberal, social despotism.

I hope the coming, electoral route of the hapless, liberal party (aka Democrat party) will put a stop to these homosexual bleatings, once and for all.

Yeah, right!

Posted by: battleground51 | January 12, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

As per Justice Breyer's dissent "Where's the immediate irreparable harm required for a temporary injunction to issue?"

Posted by: jeesq | January 12, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

This is not a case about "both sides deeply held beliefs" as though both sides had equally valid arguments. This is about a bunch of ignorant bigots who want to amend a state constitution to deny their fellow citizens, who they vehemently hate, equal rights. The trial is about the victims of this organized hatred fighting for THEIR constitutional rights. Placing both sides in some sort of equal position suggests that the bigots have a valid reason, other than their hatred and bigotry, to deny fellow Americans equal rights.

Its to suggest that the racists who supported segregation in the 1950's were just good and decent people who had deeply held beliefs about the inferiority of some other races. We know that to be utter nonsense and its inaccurate. Those people who supported segregation were racists, not people with deeply held beliefs, but people with deeply held racist beliefs, and the people who oppose same-sex marriage are not folks with deeply held beliefs but are peolpe with deeply held bigoted beliefs. Its that simple. Let's not suggest otherwise.

Posted by: gilbert6 | January 12, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

thanks to the Supremes, we can't really say "the whole world is watching"..

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 12, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

this is more of that so called transparancy that obama promised...i love how he sits on the sidelines..

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 12, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

One item that Ms Rodriguez missed - Judge Walker also stipulated that any witness that did not want their testimony videotaped would not have their testimony videotaped. Transcripts of the testimony will be widely available regardless. I really don't think this is nearly as big a deal as Ms Rodriguez, the Prop 8 Defendant-Intervenors, and some of the commenters here are making it out to be.

Posted by: ModestProposal | January 12, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The people who called for the "culture war" now seem to be just a bunch of pansies. Whine, whine. "The gays are harassing us." Honestly. Turn on the light and the roaches scurry.

Posted by: dwaldman | January 12, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

It is amazing how the myth of the "Prop 8 riots" continues to grow. I was at several of the big Prop 8 protests. Other than harsh words there was little or no altercation, just peaceful protest. You will not have to look very far for instances of minor vandalism and fisticuffs from BOTH sides, but the idea that some sort of mass violence occured is a bad joke perpetrated by the anti-gay folks.

As far as boycotts, darn right! Boycotts and pickets are examples of democracy in action. Want to take away my civil rights?..the LEAST I can do is refuse to support your business. Let the 52% keep you afloat, the 48% of the rest of us will take our business elsewhere.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | January 12, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Wow! All of this fuss just to allow the mentally perverted to stick their dick up some other man's butt hole and call it marriage.

Posted by: ChasR | January 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

you sound like one of obama's troops

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 12, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

fr krankyman:

>...I guess Rodriguez forgot the aftermath of Prop 8 when mobs took to the streets, smashed windows, burnt cars, and generally acted like Nazis because voters dared to express their constitutional rights at the polls.

She also appears to have missed the fact that the names of supporters of Measure 8 were published, presumably so opponents could identify these persons and then share their "opinions" with the supporters of Measure 8....<

I was at several anti-Prop HATE rallies, and they were peaceful, not filled with "mobs". All we are asking for, AND DESERVE, is the RIGHT to marry the legal, consenting, non-attached adult of our choice, which we do NOT "already have". GLBTs don't want to marry kids, siblings, or farm animals, no matter what the right-wingers spew.

Deal with the FACT that someday, there will be Marriage EQUALITY in all 50 states plus DC.

Posted by: Alex511 | January 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that krankyman brings up the fear of gay retaliation when the conservative right out-guns the gays 10 to 1 and perpetrated so much anti-gay violence that a law had to be passed protecting gay rights.

Posted by: impressed1 | January 12, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Ms.Rodriguez is a lightweight for sure..i think she has a thing for Justice Kennedy..

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 12, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Whenever powerful people refuse access to TV cameras, you can be certain something underhanded is happening. With the constitutional rights of a minority about to be decided, closed doors and secrecy ill become the court.

Posted by: codexjust1 | January 12, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Dear me, the sky is falling! A trial will be televised on YouTube! Sweet Jesus, what's the big deal? The judge got 132,000+ signatures in favor of the broadcast, and 32 against. If someone wants to punish in some way someone they disagree with on this matter, there's no need to sit through hours of YouTube video to learn someone's opinion on the matter. We have these things called Newspapers, and they're reporting who said what on this trial. Ironically, I'd never heard of homophobe William Tam until he chickened out of testifying! This judge is going to piss off half of America no matter how he rules on this case. If he's brave enough to be the judge on this hot-button issue, the rest of us can rise to the occasion, too.

Posted by: jdavis115 | January 12, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

And by the way, given the Kansas judge's ruling the Dr. Tiller's murderer can claim accidental manslaughter, with a whopping five year prison sentence, because he thought he was saving an innocent life, I'd be a lot more worried if I were an abortion doctor than testifying as an expert witness in a YouTube'd trial!

Posted by: jdavis115 | January 12, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Looking forward to seeing the trial on You-Tube..hopefully.

Onward, Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA.

Civil rights and civil marriages shouldn't be put up to popular votes in America.

So to the marriage police, find another issue to foucs on in the 21st century...

Posted by: cornetmustich | January 12, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

The terms "gay", "equality" and "rainbow" are all very nice sounding political correct words desgned to mask the fact that homosexuality is a perverted mental illness. Why else would a man want to stick his dick up another man's real end with all of that fickel contaminants and call it marriage?

Posted by: ChasR | January 12, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Spelling correction to my previous post... "rear end", not "real end"

Posted by: ChasR | January 12, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I find it amusing that ChasR has such a fascination with gay male sex. What's with that Charley. Are you hoping some gay guy will do you?

I have many str8 friends and none of them have ever asked me what my sexual interests are nor have I been curious about what they do.

It seems that it is fundamentalist religionists who have this perverted interest.

Posted by: mickle1 | January 12, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Mickle1, thanks for your response. In response to your question, the answer is a clear no, I have no desire to have some guy do me or vice versa. My question to you is... What attracts you to another guy?

Posted by: ChasR | January 13, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Homosexual marriage has nothing to do with gay rights. It is the destruction of the ordinary definition if marriage--nothing more. If the "marriage equality" group were so concerned at discrimination, they wouldn't stop with same-sex marriage. The Muslim faith allows a man to take four wives. Our laws, which are based on our Judeo-Christian heritage (surprise, surprise) do not permit bigamy. There are one billion Muslims in the world. Aren't our laws against bigamy overt discrimination against an entire religion (the second largest religion on the planet)? If anyone can marry anyone, where do you stop? Why can't two brothers marry each other? Why can't a bisexual man take a husband and a wife?

Posted by: smorgano | January 13, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

@smorgano: thank you for a concise regurgitation of all the worst aguments against marriage equality, full of bigotry and outright lies in only a few sentences. someone has to say it, apparently, regardless of how wrong and ridiculous it is.

Posted by: mikhastur | January 13, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

@rmcgolden... there may be plenty to grouse about at the president, but what the federal judiciary does about broadcasting trials really is not one of them.

Posted by: mikhastur | January 13, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

@bg51, actually if you look at most of the biggest judicial decisions in the gay rights arena, they are dominated by republican appointed judges. Furthermore, you are overlooking the myriad legislative advances as well. Rant all you like, but you're on the wrong side of morality and history on this one.

Posted by: mikhastur | January 13, 2010 6:20 AM | Report abuse

krankyman: Can you please post your home address? Thanks!

Posted by: littlextratime | January 13, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

How soon we forget... here's an impressive list of mayhem, hate, fear, and other disgusting rude things inflicted by the anti-Prop 8 groups on the California voting majority--before they had even lost! (from the Heritage Foundation)
C'mon, everyone--I thought bullying was something we were supposed to grow out of.

If you want your side to win, let it do so on its own merits--not by putting down everyone who doesn't believe the same things as you. Geez. My stance: I don't want to know what you do in the bedroom, and I don't want my kids to have to hear about it either. But if you're going to insist on revamping society, I have a problem with that.

Posted by: mommadin | January 14, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

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