Civil Rights Groups Relent to Release of Internal Emails

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010  |  Updated 2:45 PM PDT
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Players in the Prop 8 Debate

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SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 5: Drew Cloud (L) and Jacob Whipple, who are engaged to each other, watch a live broadcast as the California Supreme Court hears arguments for and against Proposition 8 on March 5, 2009 in San Francisco, California. The controversial proposition that prohibits gays and lesbians the right to marry is being challenged by the gay community. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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The lawsuit against Prop 8 took one teeny-tiny step forward today, as Equality California and the ACLU agreed to release a handful of previously secret emails that their opponents had demanded.

The organizations had both worked to oppose Prop. 8, the ban on equal marriage rights for gay couples. Although neither group is a plaintiff in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the current challenge against the ban, the Prop. 8 proponents had requested emails from both organizations. EQCA estimated that gathering and releasing the documents will cost $20,000.

When EQCA and the ACLU resisted the court's order to release the documents, they risked being held in contempt, at which time they would have been fined $2,000 per day and could have contested the order. But that's not what happened -- instead, today they both agreed to release the internal emails.

A key motivator seems to be a ruling filed on Sunday by Judge Walker, which ruled that EQCA and the ACLU had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to turn over the documents or provide a reason why they should not have to. The ruling also stated that while First Amendment protections could be claimed in certain cases, the ACLU and EQCA were not eligible for that protection in this situation.

EQCA, for its part, appears to be shining as positive a light as possible on the judge's ruling. Although First Amendment protection does not appear to apply in this particular case, EQCA Executive Directory Geoff Kors stated that he was pleased that the judge had acknowledged that protections might apply for other parties in other cases.

Once the documents are turned over, the next step -- barring any other unforseen challenges -- will be closing arguments in the case. Since Judge Walker has tended to move quickliy on the case, those arguments may be scheduled within the next month.

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