Proposition 8 and the unfortunate promise
It would do Californians good to be able to view the videotape of the federal Proposition 8 trial and decide for themselves. There's such instructive material as the supporters of Proposition 8 being unable to articulate any ways in which same-sex marriage would harm the marriages of opposite-gender couples. And the admission, also by an opponent of gay marriage, that the institution would strengthen the families of such couples.
But there are issues beyond useful instruction. It's hard to argue with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision this week not to release the video because the trial judge, retired U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, repeatedly assured the participants that the proceedings would never be broadcast and that the tape was just for the use of the court. Shortly after he retired, Walker showed a clip from the trial at a speech he was giving, which also seemed out of line. The clip belonged to the court for court use.
Sometimes, there are compelling reasons for making a video or document public, so much so that it overrides a judicial promise. But edification of the public a couple of years later isn't one of them.
Of course, where the real problem began was with the U.S. Supreme Court deciding not to allow the broadcasts before the trial ever started, yielding to the silly claims by Proposition 8 proponents that the witnesses would somehow be too intimidated. The two witnesses in favor of the marriage ban were both prominent figures who had appeared on television before.
Photo: Judge Vaughn R. Walker is seen on November 19, 2010. Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP Photo