LA Times: Judge Walker’s Sexual Orientation Unlikely To Affect Prop. 8 Case
May 31, 2011 2:02 pm ET by Equality Matters staff
Federal judge Vaughn Walker’s 10-year relationship with his same-sex partner is unlikely to impact his 2010 decision striking down California’s Proposition 8, according to a May 29 article in the Los Angeles Times:
Same-sex marriage opponents want the judge's decision overturned because he did not explicitly disclose before the trial that he is gay and in a long-term relationship. But many legal ethics experts disagree.
Gay and lesbian judges may preside over gay-rights cases and rule on same-sex marriage disputes as long as the jurists are not attempting to marry their partners, according to the nation's top experts in legal ethics.
"I don't think he needed to disclose that any more than a non-gay judge would," said Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Lubet, who wrote a book on judicial conduct and ethics.
Hofstra Law School Professor Monroe Freedman pointed to failed attempts to prevent a female African American judge from presiding over a sex discrimination case, a Jewish judge from a case involving an anti-Semitic pogrom and a Catholic judge from an abortion dispute.
Even an opponent of Walker’s decision had to admit that the attacks on Walker’s impartiality were silly:
University of Minnesota Law Professor Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said Walker had no duty to disclose his relationship because it clearly was not grounds for disqualification.
Painter said he disagreed with Walker's ruling — "his view of the Constitution is a stretch" — and was disappointed that opponents of same-sex marriage decided to make an issue of the judge's personal life.
"I personally think this borders on frivolous," Painter said. "I think they are going to look very bad, and it is really unfortunate."