Video recordings of the trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban will not be made public, according to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The issue regarding the videos needed to be addressed before the court could take on the larger issue of whether a lower court judge properly struck down Prop 8 -- the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. That ruling is expected at a later date.
The 2010 trial was the first in federal court to examine whether prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violates their constitutional rights. The recordings are not expected to reveal new evidence or testimony because the case was open to the public and received significant media coverage.
In its ruling, the 9th Circuit panel cited a promise by the trial judge that the footage would not be seen outside his courtroom. Former Judge Vaughn Walker had staff make the recoredings with the condition that they would only be used to help him reach a verdict.
Media organizations and lawyers for the two couples who successfully sued to overturn Proposition 8 in Walker's court petitioned to have the recordings made public. Walker's successor as the chief U.S. district judge in Northern California, James Ware, agreed in September and planned to unseal the videos, but the 9th Circuit halted the process when Proposition 8 supporters appealed Ware's decision.
Same-sex marriage rights advocates have indicated they want to use the recordings to address political arguments used by opponents of same-sex marriage.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights released a statement, calling Thursday's ruling "extremely disappointing.:
"The court's decision to keep the people from seeing this public record of one of the most important trials in American history is extremely disappointing," said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. "As those lucky enough to have watched the trial saw, the defenders of Prop 8 were unable to offer a shred of evidence to support it, while the plaintiffs presented a mountain of compelling reasons to strike down this unjust and damaging law. The public deserves the same chance to see the facts for themselves."
The announcement will come a day after the Washington Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. A final vote is expected is expected in the House.
Opponents have until June 6 to turn in petition signatures. The measure's passage would make Washington the seventh state to recognize same-sex marriage.