Prop 8 trial video to remain sealed for now

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday granted the sponsors of the ban on same-sex marriage a stay of a lower court order mandating public release of the video.

In last year's trial, now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said that Proposition 8, an initiative approved by state voters in 2008, violated the federal Constitution.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 are now seeking to appeal that decision, and Walker's ruling has been put on hold during the appeal.

In a side issue, the initiative's supporters and two same-sex couples who challenged Proposition 8 are disputing whether a videotape of the 13-day trial should be made public.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge James Ware, the new trial judge assigned to the case, said the video should be unsealed because "no compelling reasons exist" to counter the public interest in access to court records.

The stay granted by the 9th Circuit suspends Ware's order while the appeals court considers further whether to grant a long-term stay. The next step in the dispute is the filing of further written briefs on whether the video should be made public.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 say that unsealing the tape could lead to harassment of witnesses and could possibly deter people from testifying in future trials.

Ware said in his Sept. 19 ruling that the argument was "unsupported hypothesis or conjecture which may not be used by the court as a basis for overcoming the strong presumption in favor of access to court records."

Records of the 12 days of trial testimony and one day of closing arguments have already been made public through the release of written transcripts and a re-enactment of the trial posted on the Internet.

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