Washington: The US Supreme Court barred the live broadcast of audio and video from a California court where rights activists are challenging a state ban on gay marriage.
In a 5-4 decision that split the top judges along their political leanings, the Supreme Court said the San Francisco courtroom had likely failed to follow regulations when it altered its existing rules to allow the transmissions.
"We do not here express any views on the propriety of broadcasting court proceedings generally," the majority decision said.
"Instead, our review is confined to a narrow legal issue: whether the District Court`s amendment of its local rules to broadcast this trial complied with federal law.”
"We conclude that it likely did not," the ruling said, adding that it would be "premature" to order a similar halt to a non-live rebroadcast of the proceedings over the Internet.
The California case involves the state`s controversial Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage and is being challenged by gay rights activists as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
A few days before the closely-watched case began on Monday, the judge overseeing the arguments decided to allow a live broadcast of the proceedings to five other courtrooms.
A plan to rebroadcast the arguments online was not implemented, but the decision to make the proceedings available to viewers outside of the courtroom was vigorously criticised by opponents of gay marriage, who petitioned the Supreme Court to halt the transmissions.
In a dissenting opinion on Wednesday, four of the Supreme Court`s justices argued that there was no justification for banning the broadcasts.
"I can find no basis for the... conclusion that, were the transmissions to other courtrooms to take place, the applicants would suffer irreparable harm," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer.
He also cited "the public`s interest in observing trial proceedings to learn about this case and about how courts work."
Liberal and conservative judges have often found themselves on opposite sides on the question of whether courtroom proceedings should be broadcast.
The Supreme Court in particular has opposed live transmissions of audio or video from inside its Washington courthouse.