The federal judge who will preside over a highly anticipated gay marriage case in California will allow the trial to be videotaped for later showing on YouTube despite the negative effects that doing so could have on witnesses.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker decided Wednesday to have court employees record next week's legal showdown between gay marriage advocates and sponsors of California's Proposition 8, the amendment that defined marriage in California as the union between a man and a woman.
According to reports, Walker said he decided to allow the YouTube taping to provide a giant civics lesson for as many people as possible, among other reasons.
"I always thought that if people could see how the judiciary really works, they would take a somewhat different view of it," he said, according to The Associated Press.
Prop. 8 sponsors, however, say the move could put witnesses at further risk, as some of the amendment's supporters have already been harassed for their defense of it.
Furthermore, as attorney Michael Kirk told Walker, the knowledge that the witnesses are testifying to "untold thousands or millions ... can cause some witnesses to become more timid" and induce others to be overly dramatic.
Though Walker has the power to order the faces of individual witnesses concealed or their voices muted, Kirk said such actions would only draw more attention to the witnesses.
Despite protests, Walker ordered that the trial be videotaped, pending final approval from the appeal court's chief judge.
The videotape will be posted on YouTube through the newly made account of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (www.youtube.com/usdccand).
The case, which opens this coming Monday, could lead to a precedent for whether gay marriage becomes legal nationwide and will be watched closely by people on both sides of the debate.
Whatever the outcome, the ruling will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could end up determining whether gay Americans have a right to marry.
Funding the lawsuit is a group of liberal Hollywood activists led by director Rob Reiner, who have retained two of the nation's most influential lawyers to argue the case - former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and trial lawyer David Boies.
The legal team on the other side is being led by Charles Cooper, a veteran trial lawyer who worked for the Reagan-era Justice Department. Cooper is being assisted by a team of lawyers from his own firm, along with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group based in Arizona.
The case is Perry v. Schwarzenegger.