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Prop. 8 backers seek to block federal trial broadcast [Updated]

January 8, 2010 |  1:29 pm

Backers of Proposition 8 filed an emergency petition with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today to prevent the broadcast of a federal trial on the constitutionality California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The trial, scheduled to start Monday, was supposed to be videotaped by the court and disseminated on YouTube and in other federal courthouses.

Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 campaign, said the broadcast would be unprecedented and would violate federal court rules. He said the scheduled broadcast "collides with the longstanding policy of the federal courts not to televise trials."

"Many supporters of Proposition 8 who are being dragged into this case are fearful about being questioned about their personal, political and religious beliefs on the stand and having that televised," Pugno said.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is presiding over the San Francisco trial, said Wednesday that he favored a limited public broadcast of the trial as part of a trial project authorized by Judge Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th Circuit.

The campaign today also asked Walker to stay any order authorizing a public broadcast.

[Updated at 3:08 p.m.: One of the sponsors of Proposition 8 also asked Walker today to be removed as a defendant in the case because he feared for his life. Hak-Shing William Tam was one of five campaign sponsors who intervened in the case after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown declined to defend the initiative. He said the trial would bring him unwarranted publicity and possible retribution from supporters of same-sex marriage.]

--Maura Dolan