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Supreme Court Blocks Airing of Proposition 8 Trial

The Supreme Court issued an unsigned 5 to 4 opinion yesterday barring broadcasting of the Proposition 8 trial. The court’s liberal bloc issued a dissent, in which Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the court’s majority “identifies no real harm” from broadcasting the trial’s proceedings, “let alone irreparable harm to justify its issuance of this stay,” reported the Washington Post. Judge Vaughn Walker had planned to stream the proceedings live to five other courthouses across the US and then post the video later on YouTube. The majority opinion cited a failure of the lower court to follow established procedure while changing their rules to allow broadcasting. The trial will decide whether California’s Proposition 8, the November 2008 ballot initiative that overturned the right of same-sex marriage in the state, is constitutional. Judge Walker, will decide whether the ban violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the US Constitution. The case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is widely expected to reach the Supreme Court. This current suit was filed in May 2009 by two prominent attorneys known for arguing against one another over the 2000 presidential election in Bush v. Gore and is on the behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses after the passage of Proposition 8. The case is the first in the United States at the federal level to consider whether it is legal for states to ban same sex marriage through ballot initiatives. The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 in a 6 to 1 ruling in May 2009. The proposition, which passed 52 percent to 48 percent, overturned a May 2008 ruling of the state Supreme Court that resulted in, among other provisions, the legalization of same sex marriage in the state. The Court’s 2009 opinion preserved the marriages of the 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California during the period same-sex marriage was legal. Same sex marriage is currently legal in five states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont). Washington, DC, approved same sex marriage legislation in December 2009 and is waiting for a mandatory 30 day congressional review period to expire before the legislation becomes law. Legislation to legalize same sex marriage was recently defeated in New York and New Jersey.

Sources:

Washington Post 1/14/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 1/11/10