The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled the sexual orientation of a judge involved in litigation over California's Proposition 8 is not a reason to reverse his decision that the ban on gay marriage is a unconstitutional. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the appeals court rejected the argument that Judge Vaughn Walker's long-term relationship with a man was a conflict of interest in the case.
Sponsors of the voter-approved 2008 ban offered no evidence that then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had planned to marry his partner and can't rely on mere speculation to show that he had a conflict of interest, said James Ware, who succeeded Walker as chief judge and inherited the case.
The fact that a judge is in a relationship doesn't necessarily mean he is "so interested in marrying the person that he would be unable to exhibit the impartiality which, it is presumed, all federal judges maintain," Ware said.
Opponents of Prop. 8 had sued to have the law declared unconstitutional shortly after its passage, and in 2010, Walker found that it was discriminatory. Analysts have long held that the motion would be denied, making the comparison that a civil rights verdict wouldn't be invalid if it came from a black judge. While the motion that Walker should have recused himself has been rejected, the proponents of Prop. 8 will continue to appeal his decision in the case.