.- A judgeâs January 6 decision to allow the broadcast of court hearings on Californiaâs Proposition 8 could lead to further harassment and intimidation of Prop. 8 supporters by radical homosexual activists, critics say.
Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the Northern District of California, had proposed a last-minute revision to the court rules that would allow television coverage of the trial, the Washington Times reports.
A document posted on the court's website states that people may comment on the decision to open the courtroom to TV cameras until Jan. 8.
Speaking at a hearing on the matter on Wednesday, Judge Vaughn said the case deals with important issues and should be allowed to be broadcast over YouTube.
YouTube is owned by Google Inc., the Mountain View, California-based internet giant which opposed the measure. The San Francisco Chronicleâs blog âThe Tech Chroniclesâ reports that company founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page donated at least $140,000 to Prop. 8 opponents.
Attorneys for backers of Prop. 8 have argued that media coverage would expose their witnesses to further intimidation.
Backers of the ballot measure were targeted for harassment after the measure passed in November 2008 by 52 to 48 percent. With the aid of internet websites that combined maps and donor lists, some donors received threatening e-mails, letters and phone calls. Churches and businesses were targeted by protesters, boycotts and vandals.
According to the Washington Times, Brian Brown, executive director of the Prop. 8 backer National Organization for Marriage, said he is worried about the safety of witnesses, including campaign contributors, staff and volunteers.
"The question is really whether Judge Walker can put people on the stand where they can be threatened," Brown commented. "It's a question of people's safety."
The court usually bans television, radio and photography. On Dec. 17 the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit announced that it approved the âlimited use of camerasâ on an experimental basis.
Rick Jacobs, chairman of the homosexual âmarriageâ advocacy group the Courage Campaign, told the Washington Times that the case presents issues that are âvery important to the publicâ and will affect millions of people.
"By televising the trial, the public will be able to see for themselves the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, and will therefore have more confidence in the outcome of the trial," he said.
The lawsuit in question was filed in June by two homosexual couples who argue that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
Prop. 8 had surmounted several other legal challenges in what its backers have charged to be frivolous lawsuits.