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L.A. filmmakers produce video of same-sex marriage trial

Two Los Angeles filmmakers are shedding light on a federal trial concerning same-sex marriage in California, whose proceedings were blacked out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Using the work of courtroom bloggers, official transcripts and professional actors, John Ireland and John Ainsworth are bringing the trial to life, filming and publishing a 12-part series depicting each day of the proceedings in a San Francisco federal courtroom.

Like many Californians, Ainsworth said he sat down at his computer the morning of Jan. 13, hoping to watch the trial on the constitutionality of prohibiting same-sex marriage in California, and was outraged when he found out it would not be shown on YouTube, as originally planned.

Supporters of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, had argued that airing the trial over the Internet could open witnesses up to intimidation or retaliation by gay-rights advocates. The Supreme Court sided with Proposition 8 supporters, arguing in a 5-4 opinion that witnesses could face “harassment as a result of public disclosure of their support” for the ban.

“How dare they block the access to public information?” said Ainsworth, who had married his partner before the ban on same-sex marriage went into effect in November 2008.

Then Ainsworth received a call from his friend Ireland, who also had married his partner before the ban. The two came up with the idea to collect data from courtroom transcripts, bloggers’ dispatches, text messages and other sources to produce the video series.

It came together fast, Ireland said. They started building scripts from blog items Jan. 14 and by the next day released a list of characters to actors and casting directors. The project attracted more than 500 submissions for about 40 roles. Among the actors who signed on were Academy Award nominee Tess Harper and Adrienne Barbeau. All the actors volunteered their time, Ireland said.

They held auditions Jan. 16 and started shooting Jan. 17. The first episode aired Monday, and the filmmakers hope to get the second one up on their own website and on YouTube by the end of the week. Ireland and Ainsworth combed through nearly 3,000 pages of court documents to create the script.

Because each episode closely tracks what happened on each trial date, the episodes vary in length. The first is 5 1/2 hours, and the longest is set to come in at about nine hours.

Ainsworth said the intention was not to advocate for one side or the other.

“We're not trying to have it be a social commentary,” he said. “We're literally just trying to get the information out there.”

The directors are in the process of shooting the eighth episode and plan to shoot a 13th after closing arguments, likely to take place in several weeks. The 12th day of the trial was Jan. 27.

“I strongly believe that our court system should remain transparent,” said Ireland, a former civics teacher. “Our judicial system works best when it is not hidden from the public.”

Constitutional law expert Edward Whelan, a conservative critic of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the federal trial, said the videos could be helpful to the public without presenting a threat to Proposition 8 supporters who feared retaliation.

“Obviously that’s perfectly within their rights,” Whelan said of Ireland and Ainsworth. "The fact that it’s not being done by showing the real witnesses does a lot to mitigate some of the injury that could reasonably have been expected from Judge Walker’s show trial.”

-- Amina Khan

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Comments () | Archives (47)

LA Times... how about being unbiased in your reporting. The Supreme Court NEVER televises its cases. So it did not "black out"... instead, it treated this just as it does every other case it sees.
Do your job as a journalist. Not as an advocate.

Can someone point me to published news stories in which "pro-gay marriage extremists violently harassed many people?" I've heard of heated, even occasionally violent, exchanges at protests (from both sides, mind you), but the marauding homosexual gangs people keep talking about never seem to materialize. Huh.

In my opinion, it's more overblown rhetoric from socially-conservative drama queens. They want to feel like they stand for something, so they pretend like they care about a word representing an institution abused (sham marriages, rampant divorce) for years while they remained silent. They want to feel like they've really fought for something in their lives, so every argument with a gay person becomes to them a violent stuggle, every anti-8 protest a riot in their minds. They don't need to understand that bad PR from a vote for 8 made someone decide to resign, it's easier just to yell about gays harrassing people and getting them fired.

Their various flavors of mass hysteria are exactly WHY the founding fathers didn't found this nation on either religion or direct democracy. Judging by the defense's anemic showing at this trial, it doesn't do well under oath, either. This documentary will be interesting...

If you think its just as simple as "finding a different name than marriage," you're wrong. Here are a few examples:

Civil Unions are not recognized by the federal government, so couples would not be able to file joint-tax returns or be eligible for tax breaks or protections the government affords to married couples

The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.

But can’t a lawyer set all this up for gay and lesbian couples?

No. A lawyer can set up some things like durable power of attorney, wills and medical power of attorney. There are several problems with this, however.

1. It costs thousands of dollars in legal fees. A simple marriage license, which usually costs under $100 would cover all the same rights and benefits.

2. Any of these can be challenged in court. As a matter of fact, more wills are challenged than not. In the case of wills, legal spouses always have more legal power than any other family member.

3. Marriage laws are universal. If someone’s husband or wife is injured in an accident, all you need to do is show up and say you’re his or her spouse. You will not be questioned. If you show up at the hospital with your legal paperwork, the employees may not know what to do with you. If you simply say, "He's my husband," you will immediately be taken to your spouse's side.

The haters will continue to rant about morality and how they don't accept homosexuality, blah, blah, blah. This debate will go on for a long time, but there's little doubt that homosexuality is becoming more mainstream with each year that passes. If it makes the haters feel better to keep their special little word (marriage), then so be it. They've already lost the war against homosexuality, in my opinion.

Hey, While we're at it, lets have the polygamist have their say, after all we don't want to discriminate.

Why is polygamy looked at as a crime by the moral police but homosexuals can have their own city?(west Hollywood, SF), I want to sue for discrimination.

As I sit and read the hate and heterophobia that infects this blog, I've said it before and its evident that the gay community wants to just steamroll over our society, they want the straights to be tolerlant to their lifestyle but spit in the eye of the institution that gave them life.Yeah right, what happened to tolerance?
spatula says "Like roaches and rats, the multi-million-dollar anti-gay hate industry prefers to operate under cover of darkness." What a stupid quote, so a decent man and woman who wants to raise his or her chidren traditional are considered neanderthals? what kind of upside down Alice in Wonderland world we liv'in in? You progressives are sooo enlightened that you stop at nothing to make sure we see the light like you.

What if prop 8 had failed and the people protested to overturn it, how would the gay community reacted? I can just imagine, so why can the gay community hate?

How arrogant are those pro gay marriage people commenting here to call us names, we should be calling them names.Pretty self rightous to think that throughout the history of mankind same sex activites was always looked at as an abomination, but they think mankind throughout millions of years had it wrong and they finally have it right.

Deprived of rights? They're one group that are by far the most affluent in the entertainment industry, especially theater,not the father who loves his kids, but the homosexual who loves his cats, so stop crying about how hateful and bigoted the working man and woman is who wants to show some values to his children.

Remember, the Christian community although I have to admit many have shown to be bigoted, is your best friend, even though we don't agree with your lifestyle, God gives us all free will to live how we want, straight or gay. However we need to preserve something conservative because if we don't, we'll become like Northern Europe, and the throat cutting throwbacks from the seventh century will come in and try to impose their ideology on all of us, you want to see intolerance? just ask the Hitler of Iran how many gays are getting married there.

Thank you Hetero Father and Husband, the best comment so far, you've exposed the double standard that lies with the gays. They love to use choice rhetoric words like "bigotry"
"intolerance","homophobia", my favorite is "spewing hate", they tend to over use that alot and they're doing exactly what they accuse the straights of doing, hating. And since when is keeping marriage between man and wife hate? Do they want us to except the notion that Bill and Donald are the same as my Uncle Jack and Aunt Edith? Thats so laughable its ridiculous.

I want to pose this question,Want multiple women made me think, polygamists are consenting adults that want multiple wives and feel that's their lifestyle of choice. where does the gay community stand with polygamy? I hope they don't think its immoral because then we've got hypocracy.

Gays have same rights as heteros. Marry someone of opposite sex, adult, consenting, single. SAME RIGHTS. Though marriage is a PRIVILEGE not a Right. NO one is born 'married'. Marriage is a certificate, like business, doctor, wills, driving license. It has requirement.

Love is not one of them. Though are we talking about DESIRE or SACRIFICE?

And folks, legalizing Gay Marriage, is to get our children. They want our children. They want them to not ever know the difference. And to go ahead, try it, hedonism and sexuality are all good for children. NO church, no cartoon, can emphasize a mother & a father. That will be deemed HATE SPEECH with Gay Marriage Laws. Please see Canada.

Judging by their similar composition, it seems to me that the last three comments were written (and endorsed) by the same person. Logically, too, they're similar in thinking their lack of knowledge of facts gives them license to make them up.

FACT: Marriage IS a right, as confirmed by Loving v. Virginia in 1967, which stated, "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man'" FACT: Strauder v. West Virginia in 1888 found that the all-white jury everyone received at the time did not provide for the equal protection under the law guaranteed by the 14th amendment to a black man it had convicted. If he didn't have to settle for the same ill-suited jury as everyone else, there's no reason homosexuals should have to settle for the same ill-suited marriage as everyone else.

We live in the United States, not some third-world theocracy where people have to lie about who they are to get equal rights, and just because some of those theocracies treat their people worse doesn't make our unequal laws better.

Zach, you seem to be a man of intelligence, if "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man'" according to Loving v. Virginia, you must agree that polygamists should have their rights too, if you do then I have to say you're at least consistant with your position in principal.

I can't rightly say what polygamists have a right to, because their relationship is quite different than that of the marriage contract. My opinion is that two parties have a right to sign a legal contract (which is what civil marriage is) regardless of the sex of either. However, every tenet of that contract changes when more than two parties are involved.

If polygamists want to bring their own case they're certainly entitled to it. That's the nature of our system and our system would have to hash it out, because it's more complicated than saying, "if they get it, everyone can." The courts don't make decisions like that, neither do I. Do polygamists have the right to cohabitate and share their lives? Sure. Do five people have the right to sign a two-party contract? Obviously EXTENSIVE changes would have to happen before that even becomes a reasonable question.

ZACH with gay & polygamists, then it sounds like as a democratic society, we should vote on it... oh wait WE DID.

this is not a Hedonist society, instilling laws or rights for anyone, it is a Judeo-Christian society, and we voted that way too, even above and beyond the NPR, ABC, NBC, LaTimes, CBS & Hollywood & taxes to AIDS campaign to tell, to brainwash us otherwise. WE VOTED. 31 states VOTED. And 1 law in Virginia, based on your blog info, really, makes marriage a right? Well yes, as in, a right to apply. Just like anyone has a right to try for a driving license, but you do not have a right to CHANGE THE RULES to fit your desires. Marriage is a sacrifice, a lifelong commmitment, about raising children. Anything else, anything less, and its our children that will be told their mother & their father, & nature, & God, mean oh so little, to Zach's own needs.

Your God has nothing to do with our government, Ron. Our Founding Fathers were wise enough to specifically avoid putting our government in the grip of any God, and were wise enough to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority's vote. That means that everyone is free to do as they please so long as they don't harm anyone else in doing so. You're free to teach your children whatever you like while gay people are free get the same marriage benefits as straight people for contracting to do the same thing - no harm, no foul, not up for a vote. It's not our government's job to set an example for the religious beliefs you want to teach your kids - that's your job.

Marriage is not a right - it is an institution. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Please do not redefine it.

I agree with Zack,our Founding Fathers were wise enough to specifically avoid putting our government in the grip of any God, it was an unwriten rule however that certain things and behaviors of the society of mankind was unexceptable or man will either self-destruct or just extinct itself. People early in America understood that as common sense but God out of government arguement has a double edged sword, although true it does not mean that anything goes,like Larry Flynt who publishes porn which is anti-American family values which is the glue of our survival, wraps himself around the flag and first ammendment and declares himself a patriot for using the constitution to poison the minds of the young.Early in this piece someone said that gay is becoming more mainstream, based on that our civilization will not be sutainable.

Unfortunatly hollywoodron, this has become a hedonist society, and the more hedonistic the more one is celebrated as a role model, look at Adam Lambert, he probably holds the most promise as an entertainer because of his edginess.

I have a sister-in-law in a lesbian relationship, I've been to dinner parties where their gay male friends have attended and in the past 10 years they've lost 6 to A.I.D.S, I come to love and care about these guys, any prejudice I had of them went away, all good looking with great careers and decent human beings, one of them was a dancer and a choreographer.
These were fine men that could've probably made a lady happy, had children in their image and ultimatly left a legacy, but at the end all of them left nothing, just cats that my sister-in-law and her partner took custody of.
Now my wife's sister as she pushes 50 looks back and refects at her life of success with her partner free from those abusive hetero men enjoying years of wine tasteing and fine cheeses feels empty and wishes she made it work with her ex-husband and became a mother instead of thinking she was some inlightened progressive who found herself.

The supporters of Prop 8 have every right to avoid the crazy fray that comes out in favor of gay marriage. These folks are very militant and they won't take NO for an answer. When we see the advocates of gay marriage out in force they represent an angry MOB of crazed wackos. Can you imagine having that angry MOB after you because your opinions don't match theirs?

On the two sides of this issue, I see angry, hostile GLBT crowds shouting their vitriol against average people, and reasonable citizens asking the courts quietly to preserve marriage as being between one man and one woman.

HFH, your story tells me that gay relationships are like any other. Plenty of divorced heterosexuals wish they made it work, too, and for each of them we could probably find a couple that did and ignore, even hate, each other today. This is why we let people, not their neighbors or government, make decisions for them. Let's face it - people aren't going to decide to get a gay marriage just because it's acceptable in the mainstream. They're going to get one because they're gay or they're not to some degree, which laws won't change. I'm sorry to hear about your gay friends, but I don't see how you conclude lying to women about their sexuality would have made those women happy, or that such great men amounted to "nothing" just because they had no children.

I wonder if Madmommy has stopped to consider that maybe people have a right to be angry when their rights are taken away? That maybe no matter how quietly and idealistically they did so, it's still a rotten and unamerican thing to do to one's fellow citizen?

Zach, your point is well taken,it would be a disaster to live a lie regarding your sexality, however I didn't say they didn't amout to anything, they've accomplished alot career wise, my point in that is a man's legacy in life is what he passes down to his offspring.OK,a great career but for who? pets? The movie "Meet the Fockers" DeNiro's character stated it best, I'm saying these guys had lots to offer as family men that could've past something down to they're sons or daughters,now they're just a memory, thats all.

And what about those who oppose Prop 8 openly? Why does the government not refuse to release or allow the release of videos of them? This whole endeavour screams oppression and un-fair, un-lawful siding of our government. Regardless of which side I am for, if you look at it from a neutral stand point, it is still unnaturally blinding the people of California, and of our country.

"This film project is the dumbest thing I've heard of in years. I guess reading the transcript is too difficult for people?

Posted by: rah62 | February 03, 2010 at 11:12 AM"

Did you not see the sentence, where it stated that there were overall more than 3,ooo pages of court documents? I don't think the transcript all the information that occurred in that court room.

Like it or not, the reality is that there is no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. If marriage is redefined we have to ask: why limit it to two? Why not three or four? Why not a man and his dog or a woman and her cat?

Gays can't reproduce so they have to recruit. This is why they have infected our educational system. This is why they are taking your kids off the school campus without your knowledge to provide training in alternative lifestyles (and for those who scoff, yes, this really happened in the local school district; in another the parents found out before it happened and when confronted the school officials backed off and tried to cover their tracks).

Gays would like you to believe that they only want equality, but this is a lie. Here is what gays don't want you to know: the marriage door is closed and locked for a good reason. It is a Pandora's box, and once opened it will be too late to shut it again. God help us if that ever happens.

Gays want you to believe that they can open the door just a bit to peek and see what is on the other side. This also is a lie because they know what is on the other side -- and they don't care! All they want is to open the door.

If we allow them, they will open that door, and once they do all of us will suffer the consequences. Make no mistake, the gay agenda is nothing short of the equivalent of a nuclear attack on society. In this sense then we need to understand that protecting marriage is a necessary way of protecting ourselves.

Check your paranoia with a little reality, Rusted. About 10% of people in all times, in all places, have been homosexual or bisexual. There's no need to "recruit" anyone, and no more a dangerous "gay agenda" than there was an insidious "catholic agenda," as was cried about when prejudice against that group was in vogue because some people in society always need someone to fear.

Further, marriage has been changed many times in the history of this country and the world. This nonsense that it's a pristine and unchanged institution ignores that we now marry interracially, husband and wife share equally, and we divorce carelessly. That last matter destroys over half of marriages, where's your concern for the "nuclear attack on society" that presents? It's conspicuously absent, which speaks volumes of how much this is REALLY about marriage...

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