A landmark courtroom showdown over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage began in California on Monday, but the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the judge from posting video of each day's proceedings on YouTube (a final ruling's due Wednesday). The controversial decision came after backers of the anti-gay-marriage Prop. 8 protested that online videos would turn the proceedings into a "media circus" and expose their witnesses to harassment. Are they right, or should the Supreme Court — as gay-marriage supporters argue — respect the public's right to follow such an important trial? (Watch an AP report about the Prop 8 trial)
Cameras will make the trial a civics lesson, not a circus: The arguments for blocking cameras are "flimsy" and "self-serving," say the editors of the Los Angeles Times. While vulnerable witnesses in a criminal trial might fear harassment, those giving testimony here are academic experts used to addressing big audiences and pro-Prop. 8 culture warriors who've willingly inserted themselves into a "highly public controversy." This will make for a valuable civics lesson.
"The public and Prop. 8"
YouTube coverage will guarantee an unfair trial: If the judge in question gets to turn this into a "show trial," says Ed Whelan in National Review, "the potential for abuse and harassment of witnesses and other trial participants" grows exponentially. Opposition lawyers plan to portray conservatives who take the stand in defense of traditional marriage as "contemptible bigots." It's ridiculous to say they won't face a backlash.
"Judge Walker’s 'immediate need' for a YouTube circus"
Openness is what makes trials fair: Fear of harassment is no joke, says Peter Scheer in CNN.com. But the court will control the video cameras, so it can "make sure that certain witnesses are not shown on camera, if necessary." Even if "Judge Walker rules that Prop 8 is unconstitutional — as I suspect he will" — people on both sides of the issue will have seen with their own eyes that, in an open trial, everyone gets a fair shake.
"Prop 8 trial on YouTube means no secrets"
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