Editor’s note: Judge Vaughn Walker’s historic ruling that California’s Proposition 8 law is unconstitutional is currently being decided in federal appeals court. However, today’s motion is related to the actual ruling in federal District Court.
SAN FRANCISCO – Proposition 8 supporters want Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that the California law violates the Constitution to be struck down because he is gay and has a longtime partner.
The motion was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco today by Yes of 8 attorneys led by Charles Cooper, the losing lawyer in the case heard by Judge Walker.
The Prop. 8 supporters argue that Judge Walker’s impartiality is now under question.
"Only if Chief Judge Walker had unequivocally disavowed any interest in marrying his partner could the parties and the public be confident that he did not have a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case," according to the motion.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) called the motion frivolous.
"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. They're attempting to keep secret the video of the public trial and they're attacking the judge because they disagree with his decision. Clearly, the proponents are grasping at straws because they have no legal case," said Chad Griffin, president of the AFER board.
Lambda Legal was also skeptical of the motion.
"Proponents of Proposition 8 certainly are getting desperate. This reeks of a hail-Mary attempt to assail Judge Walker's character because they are unable to rebut the extremely well-reasoned ruling he issued last year,” said Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal.
“It's becoming a sadly typical move of the right: don't like the ruling; attack the referee," Davidson said.
“To say that Judge Walker's should have disclosed his 10-year relationship with another man or that it made him unfit to rule on Proposition 8 is like saying that a married heterosexual judge deciding an issue in a divorce proceeding has to disclose if he or she is having marital problems and might someday be affected by legal rulings in the case,” Davidson added.
“Or that any judge who professes any religious faith is unable to rule on any question of religious liberty or, at a minimum, must disclose what his faith teaches. Much like a suggestion that a female judge could not preside over a case involving sexual harassment or an African-American judge could not preside over a case involving race discrimination, Proposition 8's supporters improperly are suggesting that a judge will rule in favor of any litigant with whom he shares a personal characteristic,” Davidson said.
“Judges hold a special and respected place in our society. Every day, they are called upon to administer justice – in routine contract or traffic court disputes, gut-wrenching child custody decisions, complex criminal proceedings, and, as in this case, disputes about the basic human rights that our Constitution is designed to protect. There may be judges who betray their responsibilities and act with bias, but such a grave accusation must be supported by evidence. Simply disagreeing with a decision is not evidence that it was the result of bias. And assuming that being in a same-sex relationship renders some judges unable to interpret the law and do the job they have sworn to do insults both judges and America's system of justice."
The National Center For Lesbian Rights (NCLR) also chided the intent of the motion.
"This is a desperate and ill-advised move that underscores their inability to defend Prop 8. on the merits. This is not likely to win them any points with the courts, who understandably do not appreciate having the integrity of judges called into question based on such outrageous grounds. This is part and parcel of the underhanded way the Prop 8 campaign itself was run-based on lies, insinuations, and unsupported innuendo," said Shannon Price Minter, legal director of NCLR.
The motion hearing has been set for 9 am July 11 in U.S. District Court’s Courtroom 5, 17th Floor in San Francisco, before Judge James Ware, who had taken over the case since Judge Walker retired.