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Quick ruling expected on gay jurist in Proposition 8 case

Judge Vaughn R. Walker

A federal judge weighing whether another jurist should have recused himself from the Proposition 8 case because he was in a long-term same-sex relationship took the question under review Monday after three hours of arguments by lawyers.

U.S. District Chief Judge James Ware, who is deciding a request by backers of Proposition 8 to throw out last August’s ruling against the ballot measure, said he would try to issue a ruling in the next 24 hours.

“This is the first case where a same-sex relationship is the subject for disqualifying a judge, so it is important that we treat it seriously and get it right,” Ware said.

Ware did not disclose how he would rule, but many of his comments during arguments suggested he would rule that retired Judge Vaughn R. Walker was not required to step aside when he was assigned to hear the Proposition 8 challenge. 

Protect Marriage, the group that sponsored Proposition 8, filed the challenge after the jurist told reporters in April that he had been in a 10-year relationship with his partner. The sponsors contend that the relationship amounted to a conflict of interest that Walker failed to disclose.

Charles Cooper, an attorney for Protect Marriage, contended Walker stood “in the same shoes” as the two gay couples who sued to overturn Proposition 8. But Ware appeared skeptical.

“You can be in a long-term relationship without being in it for the purposes of marriage, right?” the judge asked.

Ware noted he was not being asked to determine whether Walker had a duty to disclose his relationship, only whether the Walker should have disqualified himself once he was assigned to the case.


Court to decide whether Prop. 8 judge's relationship should wipe out gay marriage ruling

Judge says there's no evidence that gay judge who heard Prop. 8 case wanted to marry

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: Judge Vaughn R. Walker. Credit: Paul Chinn / Associated Press

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