By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Two columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle have revealed that the judge presiding over California’s landmark same-sex marriage case is homosexual.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who will decide whether Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure passed by state voters to ban same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.
According to the Chronicle, Walker, 65, doesn’t hide or advertise his sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, opponents of Prop 8 claim he can still be an impartial judge in the case.
A close personal friend of the judge, who does not want his name released, told the Chronicle that he spoke with Walker about the matter and said the judge “doesn’t think [his sexual orientation] is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn’t bring it to bear in any decisions.”
However, the same source admitted that Walker’s sexual orientation is definitely relevant in the case, just as it would be if a Latino judge was presiding over a discrimination case involving Latinos or a Jewish judge hearing a case involving the Anti-Defamation League.
Proponents of Proposition 8 say they have no intention of doing anything about this disclosure, even though they believe Walker has already put supporters of marriage at a significant disadvantage thus far in the trial.
“From the outset, Walker’s entire course of conduct in the anti-Prop 8 case has reflected a manifest design to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trial of Prop 8’s sponsors,” writes Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in a National Review Online blog.
Whelan believes Walker’s homosexuality isn’t the issue, but whether or not he’s capable of ruling impartially, and judging by his behavior thus far, it doesn’t appear that he’s able to overcome this hurdle.
For instance, Walker violated federal judicial guidelines by insisting that the trial be broadcast, a move that caused one witness to back out of the case because he feared for his family’s safety should his identity be made available to gay activists. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately intervened and put a stop to the plan.
WAlker was also rebuked by a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for scrutinizing the internal memos of the Prop. 8 campaign, deemed a violation of freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Whelan believes Walker also exposed his partiality in the case by allowing “a parade” of anti-Prop 8 witnesses to give lengthy testimony at trial “that had no conceivable bearing on any factual or legal issues in dispute but who provided useful theater for the anti-Prop 8 cause.”
“Walker’s entire course of conduct has only one sensible explanation: that Walker is hellbent to use the case to advance the cause of same-sex marriage,” Whelan concludes. “Given his manifest inability to be impartial, Walker should have recused himself from the beginning, and he remains obligated to do so now.”
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