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Shutting down educated public opinion

January 14, 2010

It’s remarkable that the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in to uphold a ban on televised broadcasting of a trial now under way in California regarding the constitutionality of that state’s recent ban on same-sex marriage.

I’m not too educated on the facts of the particular case at hand, and guess many  outside the state or San Francisco, where the trial is being held, are as well. It appears the U.S. Supreme Court prefers it to stay that way.

As noted in an editorial in the New York Times today, the court has bought an argument that a live broadcast of the trial’s proceedings ‘would somehow be unfair to defenders of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage.”

Those willing to step forward to defend this measure, which in my mind is constitutionally hazy, should also be willing to have their arguments heard on a national scale.

As the New York Times editorial board notes –

Over the next three weeks or so, the trial will test whether Proposition 8 violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The trial already has featured emotionally charged testimony about the marriage ban. It is a chance for close cross-examination of opponents’ bogus claims that permitting same-sex couples to wed would harm heterosexual marriage.

No matter how the trial turns out, the verdict is unlikely to be the final word. There are destined to be appeals, and the Supreme Court may well have the final say. There is considerable anxiety among supporters of same-sex marriage that the case may reach the Supreme Court too soon, while public opinion on same-sex marriage is evolving.

Those fears are understandable. But there is a strong legal case that California voters trespassed on the Constitution when they approved Proposition 8. The courtroom battle now unfolding bears close watching, and the Supreme Court should not stand in the way of Americans viewing it and reaching educated judgments.

It’s hard to understand how televising reasoned debate of an issue that has become so elevated in this country is detrimental for the public at large.

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