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

June 13, 2011 | 11:11 am

Judge Vaughn R. Walker A federal judge questioned Monday whether the judge who presided over the Proposition 8 trial had a duty to disclose his same-sex relationship if he did not intend to marry his long-term partner.

U.S. District Chief Judge James Ware said during a court hearing that there was no evidence that retired Judge Vaughn R. Walker ever wished to marry his partner, a physician.

Sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that resurrected a ban on same-sex marriage, argue that Walker’s ruling against the marriage ban should be wiped from the books because his long-term relationship created an interest in the outcome of the case.

Ware, who is African American, said the Proposition 8 case was the first to test the need for a judge’s recusal in a case in which the judge is gay. Ware noted that “the same kind of struggle” has affected female judges and jurists who are racial minorities.

“This is the first case where 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.

Charles Cooper, who is representing the Proposition 8 campaign, maintained that Walker should have stepped down because he was “similarly situated” to the gay and lesbian couples who brought the suit in that he too was in a serious, committed relationship with a same-sex partner.

Most legal ethicists say Walker, 67, who retired from the federal bench in February, would have been required to recuse himself only if he had planned to marry his partner. Walker is openly gay, but he did not publicly discuss his sexual orientation until his retirement.


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

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

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