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Judge backs delayed showing of Prop. 8 trial on YouTube

January 6, 2010 |  1:16 pm

A federal judge in San Francisco said today that he wants the trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 to be videotaped and distributed over the Internet.

"This certainly is a case that has sparked widespread interest," U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker said during a hearing. "I think a trial can be highly informative."

If Walker's view is endorsed, as expected, by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the legal battle over same-sex marriage will become the first federal trial in nine Western states to be videotaped for public distribution, according to Thomas Burke, a media attorney.

In addition to running the entire proceedings on a delayed basis on YouTube, the videotape would be broadcast at several other federal courthouses, Walker said.

Supporters of Proposition 8 opposed public dissemination of the trial video, arguing that witnesses might be intimidated speaking before an audience of millions of people. An attorney for the Proposition 8 supporters declined to comment when asked if he would challenge Walker's decision.

Opponents of Proposition 8 favor courtroom cameras.

Burke, arguing for a media coalition, asked Walker to permit live video coverage with "broadcast quality" equipment.

Walker rejected that request. He said it was important for the "process to be completely under the court's control." The delay would be several hours. Walker would be able to stop the video at any time.

Although Burke did not get what he wanted, he called Walker's remarks "a really important first step" to televising federal trials. Burke said he hoped the video would be disseminated on a timely basis.

The trial is scheduled to start Monday and is expected to last two to three weeks.

--Maura Dolan in San Francisco

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