Supporters of California’s Proposition 8 — the voter approved ban on gay marriage, that was later declared unconstitutional — were back in court on Monday, seeking to have the ruling voided because the federal judge that presided over the case is gay, and did not disclose he was in a long-term, same-sex relationship.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsors of Perry v Brown, called the move to disqualify Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling “frivolous,” “offensive” and “deeply unfortunate.”
“The Proponents of Prop. 8 today advocated for a sweeping and completely unsupported standard for disqualification that would preclude hundreds of qualified, fair-minded judges from deciding some of the most important issues facing our country,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., counsel for AFER.
“Their standard is intended to, and would, prevent gay, lesbian or bisexual judges from impartially presiding over cases involving the rights of same-sex individuals and couples – an offensive suggestion that has been consistently rejected by the courts in similar cases involving race and sex discrimination.”
Peter Renn, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office based in Los Angeles, attended Monday’s hearing and issued this statement:
“Instead of putting Prop 8 on trial, the proponents attempted to put the judge who presided over the case on trial.
But the absurdity and offensiveness of the proponents’ position — that a gay judge cannot decide a civil rights issue — became even more apparent under the court’s rigorous questioning. Apparently, the proponents also believe that the impartiality of female judges who have been the victims of rape is open to question in cases involving sexual assault.
The court is likely to deny this motion for what it is: a desperate and dangerous witch hunt for gay judges that comes at the expense of judicial integrity,” Renn said.
Kate Kendall, Executive Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, issued this statement:
“Today’s hearing made it crystal clear that the Prop 8 proponents’ central claim — that Judge Walker should have recused himself from the case because he is in a same-sex relationship — is absolutely baseless.
During the hearing, Judge Ware pointedly asked the attorney for the proponents whether an African-American judge would have to recuse himself from a race discrimination case because some people might view him as biased.
As Judge Ware’s question artfully showed, our legal system does not assume that judges who are in the majority with respect to their race, religion, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic are the only ones who can be unbiased.
Judges take an oath to be impartial and do their job faithfully. It is outrageous and offensive to suggest that a gay judge is incapable of fulfilling that vow, or that Judge Walker did not do so in this case.
We are hopeful that the ruling will dismiss this bigoted attempt to discredit Judge Walker’s eminently sound ruling that concluded correctly, after weeks of trial and months of careful consideration, that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.”
Judge Ware said he hoped to have a written decision concerning the motion to vacate on the court’s website within 24 hours.