Prop. 8: Gay judge’s relationship not a factor, court rules
The appeals court that overturned Proposition 8 on Tuesday also ruled that retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who ruled against the 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, was not obligated to step away from the case because he was in a long term same-sex relationship.
The panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge James Ware, who refused to overturn Walker's ruling on the grounds he failed to disclose his relationship, based the ruling on sound law and logic.
The court cited Ware's finding that it was unreasonable to presume a judge could not be unbiased simply because he or she might one day be affected by the ruling.
"To hold otherwise would demonstrate a lack of respect for the integrity of our federal courts," the 9th circuit said.
On the larger issue of the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the federal appeals court ruled in a narrow 2-1 decision that Californians took away a right from a minority group without justification when they approved the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage.
The decision will have limited effect outside California because it is based on voter repeal of a right a minority already enjoyed.
"The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry," the court said.
The court left in place a stay preventing same-sex marriages from resuming in California.
ProtectMarriage, which sponsored Proposition 8, said it expected the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Tuesday’s ruling.
“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage -- tried in San Francisco -- turned out this way,” said Brian Raum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberties group that helped form ProtectMarriage.
“But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court.”
-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco
Photo: Former U.S. District Court chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, shown in 2011, was not obligated to step down from the case because he was in a long-term, same-sex relationship. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters