The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused on Thursday the motion by opponents of California's Proposition 8 – the 2008 voter-approved ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman – to release the same-sex marriage trial video from 2010.
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said the video proceedings from the federal trial in San Francisco should stay sealed because the trial judge promised the defenders of Prop. 8 that it would be used by the court internally for non-public purposes only.
"The trial judge on several occasions unequivocally promised that the recording of the trial would be used only in chambers and not publicly broadcast," the panel said.
"The American people deserve a court system that upholds the integrity of the judicial process," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks in a statement released today. "The 9th Circuit correctly ruled that when a trial judge makes a solemn promise, as Judge [Vaughn] Walker did by assuring the parties that the trial video would not be publicly released, the judiciary must not be allowed to renege on its pledge."
"To rule otherwise would severely undermine the public's confidence in the federal courts by breaching the bond of trust between the people and their justice system," Nimocks continued. "As the 9th Circuit today wrote, 'The integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge's word.'"
Prop. 8 was passed by 52 percent of California voters in November 2008, months after the California Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage in May that year. The state's high court upheld the amendment but did not void same-sex marriages that occurred between its 2008 ruling and the passage of Prop. 8, as The Christian Post previously reported.
Last August, however, then Chief U.S. District Judge Walker struck down the measure as unconstitutional. He concluded that moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny legal marriage to gay men and women.
Lawyers for Prop 8. previously filed a motion saying that Walker, who presided over the 2010 case, should have recused himself because he did not reveal he was in a long-term same-sex relationship.
Nimocks previously told CP that there is a chance for more appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court once the decisions by the appeals court are made.
The court cases on the state and federal level, which came after the election in which a majority of California voters supported Prop. 8 are now nearly 3 years old.
"You could have a situation where part of the case is in the Supreme Court and part of it is in the 9th Circuit," he said. "It could be that literally pieces of the case will be going back and forth between the courts as things progress."
In November, the California Supreme Court ruled that proponents of Prop. 8 have legal standing to defend the amendment in federal court. However, Nimocks said a still more technical legal question remains, and that is whether the state court's ruling will stand up in federal court under another needed article of law.
Nimocks, part of the team of attorneys assembled by ProtectMarriage.com (official proponents of Prop. 8) said prior to today's ruling that he remains confident that court cases will continue to go in favor of traditional marriage proponents.