Opinion Brief

The Prop 8 judge is gay: Does it matter?

Gay-marriage opponents protest after it's confirmed that the judge who overturned California's gay-marriage ban is himself gay

Vaughn Walker, the retired judge who overturned California's gay-marriage ban, Prop 8, has confirmed that he himself is gay and in a long-term relationship — prompting conservatives to try to get Prop 8 reinstated. Gay-marriage opponents have long complained that Walker was biased, citing rumors about his sexuality. Now they say he should have recused himself to avoid suggestions that his interest in marrying his boyfriend influenced his decision. Did Walker have a conflict of interest?

Walker clearly had something to gain: The problem is not Walker's sexual preference, says Ed Whelan at National Review. It's that he was involved with a man while he was hearing the case. "A reasonable person would think that Walker would have a strong present interest in conferring on himself a right to marry his same-sex partner." That's pretty much the definition of a conflict of interest, so it's perfectly reasonable to question Walker's impartiality.
"Re: Vaughn Walker's belated revelation"

What a ludicrous attack: "The idea that a gay judge in a long-term relationship can’t rule on gay marriage is beyond silly," says the Newark Star-Ledger in an editorial. Would the clowns defending Prop 8 have claimed that the late Justice Thurgood Marshall should not have had a say in the Supreme Court's desegregation rulings because he was black, since "he and his family might have benefited?" Prop 8's problem is that it lets the majority deny a minority basic rights. Walker's love life is irrelevant.
"Judge Walker's love life"

This logic would disqualify every judge: Prop 8's defenders claim that gay marriage is so damaging to the institution of marriage that the government has a vital interest in preventing it, says Adam Serwer at The Washington Post. The trouble is, by that logic, "a heterosexual, married judge could be seen as having just as much 'skin in the game' as Judge Walker." Gay-marriage opponents clearly think that straight judges can be impartial, but gay ones can't.
"Opponents of gay marriage getting slimy and desperate"

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