The trial on Proposition 8 is scheduled to begin Monday, January 11 in the Northern District of Colombia and it appears the judge is preparing to turn the whole affair into a political lesson for all those opposed to same-sex marriage.
Proposition 8 is the California amendment that stopped the legalization of same-sex marriage by protecting the traditional definition of marriage within the state Constitution. Plaintiffs in the current Prop. 8 trial argue that the amendment’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the federal constitution.
Unfortunately, the judge ruling on the case, Judge Vaughn Walker, has given every indication that he is going to use the trial not only to overturn Prop. 8, but also to persecute through a televised show trial those who supported Prop. 8.
As Ed Whelan of the National Review Online explains, Judge Walker has already given three key signs that he is working in favor of same-sex marriage:
“The first is his decision even to proceed to trial, rather than to rule, one way or the other, on plaintiffs’ claims as a matter of law (as has been the practice in other challenges to traditional marriage laws). Among the supposedly relevant factual issues that Walker somehow sees fit to explore are the views on homosexuality held by the sponsors of Proposition 8.
“Second, Walker authorized the plaintiffs to obtain access to the private communications of Proposition 8’s sponsors on campaign strategy—only to have his order overruled by a Ninth Circuit panel (of three Clinton appointees, no less).
“Third, despite his court’s longstanding ban on televising proceedings, Walker has been pressing—and, as I will explain soon, resorting to illegal action and other procedural shenanigans—to have the trial televised. A televised trial would of course produce much greater publicity for the circus and its ringmaster. It would also surely heighten the prospect that witnesses in support of Proposition 8 (and their attorneys) would face harassment and abuse, all the more so as the trial will take place in San Francisco.”
Just last week, Judge Walker filed a public notice with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on December 31, to revise the current law that bans “public broadcasting or televising, or recording for these purposes in the courtroom or its environs, in connection with any judicial proceeding.” Walker’s revisions will allow the Prop. 8 proceedings to be recorded and broadcasted, putting the safety of Prop. 8 supporters who have already faced harassment at greater risk.
To ensure that the revisions are in place in time for the trial, Walker has even shortened the time typically allowed for public comment before making such changes. Rather than allowing the standard 30 days or more, Walker provided only 5 business days, stipulating in his document that public comment should be submitted “as soon as convenient and, in any event, no later than January 8, 2010.”
Whelan explains best the social and political ramifications of this manipulation of federal law:
“Walker’s New Year’s Eve surprise is a critical step in his evident ongoing effort to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trial of Proposition 8’s sponsors. Specifically, Walker is rushing to override longstanding prohibitions on televised coverage of federal trials so that he can authorize televised coverage of the Proposition 8 trial. Televised coverage would generate much greater publicity for ringmaster Walker’s circus. And, whether Walker desires the effect or is somehow blind to it, televised coverage would surely also heighten the prospect that witnesses and attorneys supporting Proposition 8 would face harassment, intimidation, and abuse.”
You can read Ed Whelan’s full coverage and analysis of the pre-trial acrobatics here.