Judge Upholds Walker's Prop 8 Ruling

Lawyers for Prop 8 backers argued Judge Walker stood to personally benefit from his decision on California's same-sex marriage ban

Tuesday, Jun 14, 2011  |  Updated 7:13 PM PDT
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Judge Upholds Walker's Prop 8 Ruling

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A federal judge has upheld a gay judge's ruling to strike down California's same-sex marriage ban.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware said Tuesday that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker did not have to divulge whether he wanted to marry his own gay partner before he declared last year that voter-approved Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.       

More: Judge Ware opinion (PDF)  | Court Page for Case

Walker publicly revealed after he retired in February that he is in a 10-year relationship with a man.

Lawyers for backers of the ban argued at a hearing Monday that Walker should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from the verdict.

"It now appears that Judge Walker, at the time the complaint was filed and throughout this litigation, occupied precisely those same shoes as the plaintiffs," attorney Charles Cooper said Monday.

During Monday's hearing, Ware asked Cooper why he assumed Walker even wanted to marry his long-time partner.

Attorney Charles Cooper conceded he did not know Walker's outlook on marriage. He insisted the judge's failure to reveal the relationship until 10 months after his ruling made his silence suspect and his marriage plans an appropriate subject of inquiry.

A lengthy back-and-forth followed.

"So if a reasonable person thought a black judge should recuse himself from a civil rights case, that would be enough?" Ware asked.

Cooper replied, "No, your honor. A reasonable person would not consider that black judge, any more than a white judge, for that reason alone someone biased or impartial."

"I agree with you,'' Ware said. "Our test of reasonableness in our country will not allow us to discriminate on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation."

Lawyers for two gay couples who sued to overturn Prop 8 called the effort to disqualify Walker frivolous, offensive and unfortunate.

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