Thursday, July 16, 2020

KQED Wins Motion to Unseal Videotapes of Historic Same-Sex Marriage Trial

On Thursday, July 9, a federal judge in San Francisco ordered that video documentation of the 2010 Proposition 8 trial be unsealed next month. The ruling came after KQED and its counsel Thomas R. Burke argued that the tapes should be made available to the public.

Prop 8 banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008. The trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger was later held to determine its constitutionality. Tapes of that trial, which were made at the behest of the judge who led those proceedings, Honorable Vaughn Walker, were to remain under seal for ten years from the end of the trial.

In recent years, some Prop 8 proponents have argued that the court should extend the seal, and a virtual court hearing was held on the matter on June 17.

In his ruling, District Court Judge William H. Orrick argued that the motion contained "no justification, much less a compelling one, to keep the trial recordings under seal any longer."

"It's incredibly important to have it be open, not only for the historical record, but so the people can see this particular trial video," said Burke. "It's one of the only federal trial videos of its kind ever in the United States."

Chief Content Officer Holly Kernan praised KQED Senior Editor Scott Shafer, who helped advance KQED’s effort, as well as Burke: “This is a victory for transparency and accountability. Kudos to Scott Shafer for pushing for access and to Thomas Burke, who is a tremendous first amendment advocate.”

Prop. 8 proponents have appealed Judge Orrick’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Barring any intervention from a higher court, the videotapes will be released August 12, 2020.

KQED’s full story on the ruling is here.