After he struck down California's gay-marriage ban this week, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's own sexuality has come under scrutiny. Some gay-marriage opponents point to media reports that Walker himself is gay, which they argue makes him biased. If such reports are true, should he have recused himself from the case? (Watch a Russia Today report about the controversial decision)
Walker's sexual orientation is irrelevant: Reasonable people can disagree on the merits of Walker's ruling, says Aaron Zelinsky in The Huffington Post, but "his sexuality is not a valid ground to critique his legal logic." If a gay judge can't rule on a gay-rights case, then how about a female judge on cases dealing with Title IX or abortion, or religious judges on First Amendment cases? "Such crude identity politics" would leave us with empty courtrooms.
"Why Judge Walker's sexuality doesn't matter"
He clearly has a stake in the outcome: Walker's pro-gay "bias" has been evident since the beginning, says Gerard V. Bradley at Fox News, when his "bizarre handling" of the case turned it into "a sensationalized show-trial" designed to advance the cause of gay marriage. And you can't ignore — as the media has — that Walker might be unduly motivated by a desire to wed his "stable same-sex" partner.
"Why has media ignored judge's possible bias...?"
It is "significant," but not bad, that Walker's gay: The issue of gay marriage "is no doubt personal" for Walker, says Philip Dayle in The Guardian. But having a member of a minority group "play a critical role in determining a minority issue" is just a fact of life in "a plural and democratic society." The "unpalatable" corollary is that these minorities will usually be "presumed to be self-serving or susceptible to bias."
"Prop 8 and the judgment of Vaughn Walker"
Walker's been here before: The Right may see Walker as some "combination of a gay-media conspiracy and a liberal judicial activist" straight "out of central casting," says John Avlon in The Daily Beast. But don't forget: He was picked by Ronald Reagan, and confirmed under George H.W. Bush despite fiery accusations of anti-gay bias from Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. This Prop 8 storm will "be only a few degrees hotter than the attacks he once took from the left."
"The Right attacks Prop 8 judge"