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Prop 8's gay judge
Some wonder whether he can be impartial
 
Vaughn Walker.
Vaughn Walker.
Corbis

The legal fight over California's gay marriage ban is exploding, as new revelations bring the trial's simmering controversies to a boil. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the judge overseeing the federal challenge to the state's Proposition 8 is himself homosexual. Prop 8 supporters are accusing Judge Vaughn Walker of bias — but is Walker being unfairly maligned?

Walker brought this scrutiny on himself: Whether or not he's actually gay, says Brian Brown in the National Organization for Marriage blog, the judge has provoked controversy by turning the trial into a pro-gay propaganda festival: Countless witnesses were allowed to testify "that the passage of Prop 8 was simply...bigotry foisted on society by religious zealots." Walker's conduct has been "far more akin to an activist than a neutral referee."
"Got bias? SF Chronicle reports Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker is gay"

Accusing Walker of bias is nonsense: The idea that Walker's sexuality will affect his judgment is "ridiculous," says an op-ed at Queerty. Don't "non-white judges" rule on "affirmative actions or similar discrimination cases" all the time? Prop 8 supporters should think twice before "making an issue" out of this. "Immutable characteristics do not disqualify a person from exercising justice."
"If Prop 8's supporters make an issue out of Judge Walker being gay, here's how to shut it down."

The Supreme Court has already called out Walker's bias: Walker crossed the line almost immediately, says Ed Whelan at the National Review. In his "fervent desire" to broadcast the trial (thus, inviting harassment of pro-Prop 8 witnesses), Walker resorted to "procedural shenanigans," only to be shut down by the Supreme Court "in an opinion that was plainly a stinging rebuke of Walker’s lack of impartiality."
"Judge Walker's skewed judgment"

Walker is fair-minded, but should have opted out: Judge Walker "is not a predictable man," says Debra J Saunders at the S.F. Chronicle, and there's no reason to think he'll be biased. But I still think he should have "recused himself from this case." Even the "appearance of a conflict [of interest]" plays into the hands of Prop 8's supporters. For a truly impartial trial, he should have handed it over to "some other judge."
"Does Walker have a conflict?"

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF GAY MARRIAGE:

Gay marriage's big defeat
A gay death penalty?
How did Houston's gay mayor win?
Obama and gay rights

 

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