While both sides of California’s same-sex marriage debate await a federal judge’s decision on whether to release the videotapes of the Proposition 8 trial held in 2010, the American Family Association (AFA) says making the tapes public would be an act of hostility.
On Monday, supporters of traditional marriage argued that Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who presided over the Prop. 8 case, promised during the hearings to keep the footage sealed and his decision should not be reversed.
At Monday’s hearing, Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Ware also heard from gay rights groups that said it is the public's right to have the tape available for viewing.
Ware said he would issue a written statement soon on whether to remove a seal on the video of the trial. The taped court case ended in a ruling that declared the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.
“The concern here is that there were witnesses that spoke in favor of Proposition 8 and they are afraid that those witnesses will be retaliated against if the tape is made public and that homosexuals will come after them,” AFA general counsel Patrick Vaughn told The Christian Post.
“The courts need to keep their word and not release the tape and they also need to safeguard those witnesses. If the court releases the tape it is just an evidence of hostility to anyone who opposes the homosexual agenda,” Vaughn said.
Although Ware did not say in court which side of the videotape issue he favors, he did admit that there was a problem with having one judge promise that the video will be used for limited purposes only, and later a second judge deciding to make the video public, according news agencies at the hearing.
“If the court has any integrity it owes those witnesses to keep the tape private,” Vaughn said. “It’s preposterous that the court would even consider contrary to what was pledged to the witnesses and open them up to harassment and maybe even danger.”
“The key issue here is based on the protests and harassment that has already gone on to people who supported the proposition earlier,” he added.
Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., the lawyer who represents two same-sex couples who challenged the 2008 ballot measure, said during Monday’s hearing that releasing the video would “allow everyone to review and make their own judgments about what happened.”
The battle over Proposition 8 is set to resume next month when the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether proponents of the ban can legally defend the initiative they sponsored.
ProtectMarriage.com, the conservative group responsible for getting Prop. 8 onto the 2008 ballot, cannot continue with their appeal of the 2010 ruling overturning the ban until the state supreme court makes its decision. If the court decides that those who initiate ballot measures can defend those measures in court, then ProtectMarriage.com’s case can go forward in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, was passed by a majority of California voters in 2008. In August 2010, the measure was ruled as unconstitutional by Walker, who is now retired. Walker confirmed that he was gay in April. Supporters of traditional marriage questioned whether the federal judge’s decision might have been tainted, as he stood to personally benefit from striking down Prop 8.
The ProtectMarriage.com legal team had asked a judge in April to vacate Walker’s ruling, arguing that Walker violated federal law by failing to recuse himself from the case. Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware rejected the group’s argument.