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Marriage Equality

Prop. 8 Backers Attack Judge's Impartiality

Prop. 8 Backers Attack Judge's Impartiality


The people behind California's Proposition 8 claim that the federal judge who struck down the law can't be impartial because he happens to be gay. 

Retired U.S. district judge Vaughn R. Walker's recent acknowledgments that he is gay and in a long-term relationship are grounds for overturning his landmark decision in the federal Proposition 8 case. Or at least that's what the ballot measure's backers argued in a Monday court filing, described by one opponent as "desperate and absurd."

In the 26-page brief, filed in U.S. district court in San Francisco, Prop. 8 supporters argued that Walker should have been disqualified from deciding the case and that his opinion should be tossed, in part because of his "long-term committed relationship [and] his failure to disclose that relationship at the outset of the case." Those alleged omissions "give rise to a genuine question concerning [his] impartiality," attorney Charles J. Cooper wrote.

Cooper argued that Judge Walker's handling of the case was "marked by a number of irregular and unprecedented rulings" indicating bias. He claimed that Walker ignored previous state and federal court rulings on marriage rights for same-sex couples in his decision striking down Prop. 8 as unconstitutional.

"Chief Judge Walker's decision recognizing a right under the Federal Constitution for same-sex couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages conflicts with the judgment of every State and federal appellate court to consider the validity of the traditional opposite-sex definition of marriage under the Federal Constitution-- including both the United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit--all of which have upheld that definition. Chief Judge Walker did not cite, let alone address, any of these prior decisions," Cooper wrote.

Opponents of Prop. 8 were quick to condemn the Monday briefing as a stunt lacking in any merit.

"This motion is yet another in a string of desperate and absurd motions by Prop. 8 proponents who refuse to accept the fact that the freedom to marry is a constitutional right," American Foundation for Equal Rights board president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

"They're attempting to keep secret the video of the public trial and they're attacking the judge because they disagree with his decision," Griffin continued. "Clearly, the proponents are grasping at straws because they have no legal case. All of this underscores the proponents' animus and homophobia, which was the driving force behind Prop. 8 in the first place."

The legal team that successfully argued against Prop. 8 at trial last year will file a reply brief in the matter, Griffin said.

Walker retired from the bench in February and addressed rumors about his personal life earlier this month, saying sexual orientation is no more a reason for a judge to be disqualified than is race or gender.

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