gay_cityhall_gavel.jpgThe sponsors of California’s Proposition 8 filed papers in federal court in San Francisco today seeking nullification of a ruling that struck down the ban on same-sex marriage.

The sponsors argued that the trial judge in the case, now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, should have disqualified himself from the case because he has a long-term gay partner.

They alleged Walker had a personal interest in the outcome of the case because he might want to marry his partner.

Walker’s “impartiality might reasonably have been questioned from the outset,” the sponsors’ attorneys wrote.

As a result, the proponents argued, “the only responsible and just course is to vacate the judgment entered in this case.”

In August, Walker struck down Proposition 8, an initiative enacted by state voters in 2008. Ruling in a lawsuit filed by two-same-sex couples, Walker said the gay marriage ban violated the federal constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.

The initiative’s sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, are seeking to appeal that ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Walker’s ruling has been stayed while the appeal is pending.

Today’s request to have Walker’s decision vacated is separate from the appeal and was filed with the new trial judge assigned to the case, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware.

The sponsors asked Ware to hold a hearing on their request on July 11.

Walker, 67, retired from the court in February and entered private practice. During a trial on the couples’ lawsuit last year, he publicly neither disclosed nor denied that he was gay.

But in a post-retirement meeting with a group of legal reporters on April 6, Walker said he had a 10-year relationship with a male doctor.

He did not say whether he had ever wanted to marry, but said he did not think his sexual orientation was relevant to his job as a judge and said he had “never thought it was appropriate” to disqualify himself from the case.

Lawyers for the plaintiff couples and the city of San Francisco, which joined in the challenge, said they believe the sponsors’ claim has no legal merit and said they will file papers opposing it.

“The motion is totally frivolous,” said Chief Deputy San Francisco City Attorney Therese Stewart.

Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said, “This motion is yet another in a string of desperate and absurd motions by Proposition 8 opponents who refuse to accept the fact that freedom to marriage is a constitutional right.”

The Los Angeles-based foundation sponsored the lawsuit.

“Clearly, the proponents are grasping at straws because they have no legal case,” Griffin alleged.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • sfbird

    They’ve painted themselves into a legal corner with that argument. They’re saying that a gay judge should recuse himself because he is directly affected by the outcome, but a straight judge wouldn’t need to recuse himself because he would not be affected.

    BUT….at the trial, their entire legal argument rested on the fact that gay marriage somehow affected (even harmed) straight marriage. They needed to take that position because otherwise, it’s just a case of one group singling out another group for discrimination and equal protection would trump it.

    So if they’re now saying that gay marriage doesn’t affect straight marriage, then they are basically agreeing with Walker’s ruling.

  • sfcanary

    If we were to accept their own arguments, only judges who lived their entire lives in a state of pristine celibacy would be qualified to rule on this case. The Prop 8 sponsors’ antics would be comical, if not for the real harm they are causing to real people.