SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The tapes of the historic Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco 12 years ago will finally be released to the public, after the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal.
In the 2010 case, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California voters’ ban of same-sex marriages, Prop 8, ruling that it was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled all same-sex marriage bans, approved by the voters or not, unconstitutional under the same logic in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The federal bench sealed the tapes due to a 10-year limit on releasing similar videos.
When it came time for the tapes to be released, the local public broadcasting station KQED-TV wanted to use them for a documentary. However, same-sex marriage opponents also opposed the release of the tapes, saying Walker, who retired 10 years ago, had promised they’d only be taken for his own personal use.
U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III ruled that the tapes should be released in 2020 since there was a public interest in seeing the tapes, the transcripts were already public, and there was no evidence there’d be harassment of the same-sex marriage opponents if the tapes were released. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th District agreed last year, upholding Orrick’s ruling 2-1.
The U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear an appeal of this ruling sets it up to go into effect.
Thomas R. Burke, KQED’s attorney, stated to KRON4 that “this has been a 12-year fight to make certain that those who fought against same-sex marriage could not permanently seal the recording of this historic federal trial that, after all, recognized the right of same sex couples to marry.”
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“This federal trial was the only one of its kind – and now the recording of this trial will now be available for use by documentarians, scholars and those who want to watch for themselves, the evidence and testimony that Judge Vaughn Walker considered as he decided that same-sex couples have the right to marry, a decision that the US Supreme Court later affirmed,” Burke continued.