Release of Prop 8 Trial Footage Opposed By Whiny Crybabies

I bet you’ve really missed talking about California’s Prop 8. Well your wait is over! The latest kerfuffle is over whether or not videos of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trail should be released to the public. From the standpoint that, as nation, we agree that a more open and transparent judicial process is a better judicial process, this seems to be a no-brainer. However!

Defenders of Prop 8 are arguing that releasing the videotaped footage of those who spoke in support of the ban would place these people in danger of intimidation and harassment. Taking into account that a transcript of the trial is already available to the public and that the names of those who spoke at the trial are on public record, this argument doesn’t hold much water.

Several people have already been using the the transcript to film reenactments of the trail, including this heart wrenching clip of Helen Zia’s testimony by Patricia Clarkson:

At the time of the trial, Judge Walker made it very clear that he believed trial footage should be made widely available, and sought to livestream the entire process via internet, which was approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  But opponents of gay marriage squashed that idea by appealing to the Supreme Court, who then issued an injunction to ban livestreaming and televising. All the same, the trial was videotaped for Judge Walker’s personal use and he’s been employing some of the footage during a speaking tour advocating for cameras in the courtroom.

Attorney Theodore Boutrous who represents the American Foundation for Equal Rights responded to those pushing to keep the video tapes from public view on Monday:

“The proponents have been utterly unable to explain why the public should be barred from seeing and hearing for themselves what happened in a public trial potentially affecting the rights of millions of Americans.  The real reason that the proponents are fighting public release is that [they] do not want the world to see the powerful evidence we submitted showing that Proposition 8 flatly violates the Constitution and the extraordinarily weak case that they put on trying to defend this discriminatory law.”

The decision from Federal Judge James Ware on whether the tapes will be released  should be reached soon. Judge Ware spoke yesterday after the two hour trial regarding the release of the tapes stating he generally viewed media in the courtroom as a good thing noting, “I recognize that this is a matter of high public interest and the release of the tape might heighten public knowledge.”

Considering that citizens of California are still unable to marry based on this case, they absolutely deserve access to these tapes.

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Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 76 articles for us.


  1. I agree the tapes should be released, but that very last line about “if for no other reason than to see the faces of each human who would actively seek to deny the rights of another,” could be lifted and twisted out of context to support the idea that intimidation might occur. Not trying to be a pain, it just raised a flag.

  2. Thanks for the update Jamie! I have to say, I was initially opposed to the idea of televising the trial. If you think back to the OJ Simpson trial, allowing cameras in the courtroom resulted in (for lack of a better/more interesting term) a media circus. It turned the judicial process into nightly entertainment and I feel like it belittled what is actually one of the greatest things about America (not that the courts are flawless – far from it – but they are definitely a thing of wonder).

    But I started to come around to the idea of livestreaming the trial on the Internet, and now that the trial is over, I definitely think it’s time to see them.

  3. I LOVE Helen Zia. Her life is so inspiring. She’s responsible for one of my favorite quotes from this documentary about Vincent Chin Case (if you aren’t familiar with this, you should be).

    Here are some of her excerpts:

    I remember transcribing this quote:
    The Vincent Chin case really is a milestone. Not just for Asian Americans, but really in all of American history and in civil rights history in particular. Because this was really the first time that an Asian American was ever taken up by federal civil rights law. It was a challenge. Not just that he was Asian American but also that he was an immigrant. The question of Vincent Chin’s citizenship was one of the first things that the federal prosecutors looked at when they were trying to decide whether this was a case that the federal government should be bothered with, that it was within the purview, and the federal protection– that an immigrant would be protected. That somebody of Asian ancestry would be protected. And this was debated. This was not a slam dunk foregone conclusion. This opened up the whole civil rights definition, the arena, the way we looked at civil rights, and really the way we look at the humanity and human rights of all people in America, not just Americans, but all people in America.”

    Freaking ROCKSTAR, Helen Zia.

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