January 13, 2010 / 10:32 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. court bars video coverage of gay marriage trial

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that video from the trial over California's same-sex marriage ban cannot be broadcast, handing a victory to those defending the ban.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court granted an emergency request from attorneys supporting the Proposition 8 ban for a stay of the broadcasting of the trial.

The attorneys said broadcasting the trial would turn it into a "media circus" and that witnesses who testify would be intimidated.

The closely watched trial, which could produce a landmark ruling and lead to an overturning of similar bans in other states, began in federal court in San Francisco on Monday before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker.

Right before the trial began, the Supreme Court decided to delay any broadcast coverage through Wednesday while the justices considered the issue.

Walker had agreed to making video coverage of the trial available on the court's website or through YouTube. Walker acted based on a recent rule change by the U.S. appeals court based in California allowing televised coverage of some civil cases.

In its 17-page ruling, the five-member court majority said broadcasting the trial should be blocked indefinitely, pending the filing and disposition of any appeal.

The majority said it ruled without expressing any views on whether such trials should be broadcast.

Instead, broadcasting the trial was put on hold "because it appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their rules to allow such broadcasting," according to the ruling.

Opponents of the ban and a coalition of media organizations argued that video coverage of the trial should be allowed. They said there is a public benefit to complete access to public trials.

The court's four liberals -- Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor -- agreed.

In a 10-page dissent that his three other colleagues joined, Breyer wrote that the public interest weighed in favor of providing access to the courts and said the case involved an issue of great public interest.

Editing by Matthew Bigg and Philip Barbara

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