Man’s first step on the moon. Obama’s inauguration. “I Have a Dream.” Some of the nation’s best moments, moments that attest to the nobility and courage of this beautiful country, are now only the click of a search button away.
We were looking forward to adding the first YouTube broadcast of a 9th Circuit Court hearing to the list. The outcome of this particular trial will render whether marriage between a man and man, or woman and woman, is constitutional in the state of California. Nearly 2.6 million people await the verdict, poised on pins and needles. If Proposition 8, the law in question, is upheld, these individuals’ right to marry whom they choose will again be denied. Should it be overturned, their right as human beings, their right as Americans, to determine the course of their lives and share in the privileges afforded to the rest of the nation, will be acknowledged and shared.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, overseeing the trial, ruled that cameras could film the litigation and the footage could be broadcast on YouTube. The Prop. 8 trial has a potential audience that is nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, not to mention the millions of queer people and their allies around the globe emotionally invested in this historic moment. Judge Walker pushed for as much accessibility and transparency as possible, clearly recognizing the breadth of the issue at hand.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to indefinitely block cameras from the courtroom, stating that Walker decided “at the eleventh hour” to broadcast “a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a highly contentious issue.” He made the decision on Jan. 6, five days before the trial began. The dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court decision countered by stating that “the public interest weighs in favor of providing access to the courts.”
The trial promises to be extremely emotional. In three days of litigation, tears have been shed, deeply personal stories have been shared, and fears and concerns about the future of the nation have been voiced from both sides of the courtroom. When the freedom to love openly and equally is the right being contested in a court of law, things are bound to get passionate.
This will be the first time in history that testimony regarding the harm done to gays and lesbians by Proposition 8, itself an unprecedented law, will be heard in a courtroom. It is every citizen’s right to watch this moment unfold as it happens and see the real toll this hateful measure has taken.
Defendants are concerned that broadcasting the trial will open them to intimidation and risk. They stem from the “Yes on 8” camp, the group that led a highly financed and confusing campaign that resulted in the narrow passage of a ban on same-sex marriage.
Intimidation concerns are natural and legitimate. But Judge Walker guaranteed that those who desired their faces be blanked out would be, and that every measure would be taken to ensure privacy and safety. Most of the trial’s key figures have already made themselves public through their ardent involvement in “Yes on 8.” Furthermore, the campaign conducted a vindictive assault on the right of two humans to legally unite based on archaic beliefs about the meaning of marriage. One of the central arguments of their case is that the state has a vested interest in restricting marriage to heterosexual couples for the sake of procreation. In the age of cloning, stem cell research and global overpopulation, this logic is ludicrous.
Judge Walker’s decision to allow cameras and YouTube broadcasting should be upheld. It’s time we stop hiding behind the halls of justice and open them up to people whose future health and happiness depend on what goes on behind them. This trial will not be the end of this debate. Appeals will probably continue for years, no matter who wins. When the question over same-sex marriage makes its way to the Supreme Court, as it inevitably will, the nine justices will determine the constitutionality of a minority population’s right to wed. This trial is only the beginning, and everyone, whether they are for or against it, should be privy to it.