The federal judge who found California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional had no obligation to disclose that he was in a long-term gay relationship or recuse himself from the case, his successor ruled today.
Attorneys for proponents of voter-enacted Proposition 8 had argued that by not revealing the relationship, then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker deprived them of the opportunity to question him about potential bias.
Walker overturned Prop. 8 last August, finding it discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. In a 21-page opinion issued today, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware said the attorneys had failed to present proof of Walker’s bias.
“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,” Ware wrote, “is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief.”
Walker spoke publicly about his sexual orientation and decade-long relationship following his retirement in February. He said he never considered recusing himself from the case.
Prop. 8, approved by 52 percent of voters in 2008, amended the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Ruling on a legal challenge by two same-sex couples, Walker found the ballot measure violated the U.S. Constitution. The ban remains in place while an appeal of that ruling is pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Among the issues complicating the case is whether Prop. 8 sponsors have legal standing to defend the initiative in court since state officials have declined to do so.
The case is expected to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.