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Calif. gay marriage trial re-enacted online

February 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The state Supreme Court trial over Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, was blacked out with no cameras allowed in the courtroom.A group of filmmakers, including an Oscar nominee, have been filming re-enactments of the case and posting them online.

"On Nov. 4, 2008, 14 million Californians went to the polls to cast their ballots," said actor Julian Simmons in the re-enactment.

These are the words of attorney Charles Cooper's opening statement in U.S. District Court, verbatim. It is not actually Cooper though. It's a production posted on YouTube by filmmakers John Ainsworth and John Ireland with 40 volunteer actors. It is a re-enactment of the Prop. 8 trial.

Simmons, acting as Cooper, argues to uphold the ban on gay marriage.

"The people of California were entitled to make this critical decision for themselves," Simmons said.

The producers, both gay men, say they do not inject their personal opinion in the production.

"So everything from the mundane greetings in the morning to the arranging of exhibits in the record and which binder has a document, it's kind of boring sometimes, but we wanted to not cut any of that out," said Ireland.

"We're just telling the actors, we have a teleprompter set up where it's like you're scrolling down this teleprompter as you're speaking," said Ainsworth.

They say they did it because recording is banned in federal court and that people should know every detail of the arguments. The effort has its critics.

"I think there's potential for all kinds of abuse," said James Hirsen, a media law professor at Biola University.

"Well, it's not like a book on tape because a book on tape doesn't involve sets and casting and interpretation," said Hirsen, a Prop. 8 supporter.

The producers want to let the viewers on both sides of the issue be the judge.

"Yes, Prop. 8. No, Prop. 8. We should come together and discuss it based on facts that are presented to the judge," said Ireland.