U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker issued a warning on Sunday afternoon to Equality California and the ACLU, giving them 48 hours to turn over documents sought by the proponents of Proposition 8. If the groups fail to comply, they will be held in contempt of court and fined $2,000 per day each, according to the order.
The order is a side issue in the landmark trial to challenge the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban. But that side issue has turned into a monumental struggle by pro-gay groups who opposed Proposition 8. The groups said they do not believe they should have to turn over hundreds of thousands of emails and other internal documents to the “Yes on 8” coalition that proposed the anti-gay law.
Here’s an irony: Equality California and the ACLU are not a party to the lawsuit that is challenging Proposition 8, which the “Yes on 8” coalition is defending in court. And yet the “Yes on 8” coalition, as part of its defense of the initiative, successfully sought the order requiring the “No on 8” groups to turn over the documents as part of the original trial proceeding in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The plaintiffs in that lawsuit had previously sought and received similar documents from the “Yes on 8” groups.
The two No on 8 groups have argued that they have a first amendment right to protect the privacy of their communications, but Judge Walker said the groups have failed to submit evidence to support that claim. The groups also say it will cost them $20,000 to reproduce the documents for submission. To that, Judge Walker said, in his order on Sunday, that he will fine the groups $2,000 per day each for every day they fail to comply.
Walker has also ordered the groups to court in San Francisco on Wednesday to discuss the matter.