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Gay-rights supporters upset by Prop. 8 video decision

January 11, 2010 |  9:53 am

Gay-rights supporters hopeful that a federal trial in San Francisco will overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage were disappointed and angry today about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to block broadcast of the proceedings on YouTube and at other courthouses around the state.

Richard Sebastian went to the federal courthouse in Pasadena to watch the trial he hopes will restore his right to marry longtime partner Scott Silverman.

"We didn't know it was such a narrow window of opportunity," Sebastian said of the five months in 2008 that gay marriage was legal before voters passed Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris were among the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who wed during that period in 2008.

"I'm very disappointed that the Supreme Court felt it had to step in and stop this," said Tracey Cooper-Harris, who took the day off from her studies at Cal State Northridge to watch the trial that was supposed to be transmitted live to the courtroom used by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But after the high court's temporary suspension of broadcasts, two large flat-screen TVs set up on tables usually used by plaintiffs and defendants sat blank, and the upholstered benches capable of seating more than 100 spectators were empty.

Robin Tyler, one of the first Californians to marry her same-sex partner in June 2008, blamed the broadcast blackout on gay-rights opponents who don't want to be shown to the world when having to tell the truth while under oath.

"The 'Yes on Prop. 8' people are on every talk show to spread their lies about gay people, but when it comes to telling the truth in court, they are suddenly media-shy," Tyler said.

Only a few handfuls of people showed up at the Pasadena courthouse to watch the trial underway in the U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom in San Francisco. Walker had ruled last week that the proceedings could be carried to other courthouses and rebroadcast on YouTube after a slight delay.

A 9th Circuit panel upheld that ruling Friday. But just 20 minutes before the start of trial this morning, the Supreme Court suspended the broadcast decision, acting on an appeal from Proposition 8 supporters who fear retaliation if they are shown giving testimony.

-- Carol J. Williams in Pasadena