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Should the Prop. 8 trial be televised?

Same-sex marriage advocates are trying to build public support for televising this month’s trial of the federal court challenge to Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexuals.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco has the trial scheduled to begin next Monday, Jan. 11, and has allowed until Friday for submission of comments for and against televising the proceedings, according to the Courage Campaign.

“This case presents issues that are very important to the public, and will affect millions of people. However, if the case is not televised, only a tiny fraction will ever be able to watch the trial in person,” Courage Campaign Chairman Rick Jacobs said in a news release. “By televising the trial, the public will be able to see for themselves the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, and will therefore have more confidence in the outcome of the trial.”

Northern California’s federal courts never used to allow cameras in the courtroom, but are experimenting with televising civil trials under a pilot program approved last month by the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

So the Courage Campaign and CREDO Action are teaming to collect as many signatures and comments as possible by 9 a.m. Friday.

The Courage Campaign says Prop. 8’s supporters don’t want the trial televised; I’ve left messages with several spokespeople and attorneys, but haven’t heard back from them yet.

Your thoughts? Will this kind of transparency create better understanding of the issues, or create a media circus?

UPDATE @ 5:20 P.M.: Nobody from the anti-gay-marriage camp returned my calls or e-mails today, but I see they are indeed against televising the trial.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W.

    Judges should have the sole right to determine whether or not it is appropriate to allow cameras into a trial. However, in this case, where somebody is suing the government, I don’t see how the public interest, or the interest of the parties to the lawsuit is served by keeping the cameras out. I’ll bet that those opposed to televising the trial are also slamming Obama/Pelosi/Reid for not putting health care reconciliation negotiations on C-SPAN.