U.S. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in August 2010 that California’s Proposition 8 violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Proposition 8 was the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
At the time, Walker stated in a 136-page opinion document, “Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”
Eight months following his ruling, Walker admitted to the public that he was gay himself and had been in a relationship for over 10 years with a same-sex partner at the time of his ruling in the case. He retired from the bench at the end of February 2011.
“Yes on Proposition 8” supporters are now arguing that Walker should have excused himself from the bench before his timely ruling.
Walker told reporters earlier this month that he didn’t think it was appropriate for any judge’s sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, or gender to stop them from presiding over a case.
However, Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the conservative Family Research Council, did not agree.
“The fact that Judge Walker was biased in a generic sense was obvious from his decision itself,” Sprigg said. “But the revelation that he has been in a long-term homosexual relationship demonstrates that he had a very specific interest in the case which should have been disclosed.”
“Supporters of Proposition 8 are grasping at straws because they don’t like the outcome,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz of the Human Rights Campaign. “If their real intent was to ‘protect marriage,’ they should argue that a straight married judge be disqualified since he would conceivably have an interest in protecting his own marriage. The argument is simply ridiculous on its face.”
Proposition 8 is currently stuck in the U.S. Court of Appeals with a final decision expected later this year.