U.S. District Court Judge James Ware ruled today that the Aug. 4, 2010, decision by now-retired Judge Vaughn Walker striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional could not be vacated — as the proponents of Proposition 8 argued on Monday, June 13 — because Walker is gay and has a partner.
Judge Ware writes:
The presumption that Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief.
On the contrary: it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits.
During a Monday hearing on the matter, Judge Ware said that Prop. 8 supporters’ motion to vacate Walker’s judgment was the first time that a party had urged a jurist’s disqualification based on sexual orientation. He grilled attorney Charles J. Cooper, who argued that Walker had a duty to disclose his relationship, on what direct evidence existed that Judge Walker sought to marry his partner and thus personally benefit from a verdict favoring marriage equality.
No court has ever upheld the removal of a judge from a civil rights case because of his or her race, religion or gender, according to lawyers in the case.
In the end, Judge Ware decided “the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED.”
From here, we await a 9th Circuit Appeals court to decide whether to uphold Judge Walker’s decision or overturn it. That decision is on hold waiting for the CA Supreme Court to decide if those seeking to uphold Prop. 8 have “standing” to do so.