Judge Walker’s Sexual Orientation

 Marshall Thompson 

It appears that Charles Cooper, lead counsel for the Prop 8 defendants, is getting desperate.  Last week, he filed a motion to vacate the judgment of the federal district court that ruled against him because the judge was gay.

Judge Vaughn Walker announced earlier in April, after retiring from the bench, that he was in a ten-year committed relationship with man.  Cooper’s brief for the motion to vacate the judgment lists three main reasons why Walker crossed the line:

1.       He was in a committed same-sex relationship.
2.       He didn’t tell anyone about it.
3.       He never stated clearly that he did not want to get married in California.

On its face, it seems ridiculous. Professor Erwin Chemerinsky points out that if Walker couldn’t rule on the Prop 8 controversy because he was gay, then women judges couldn’t rule on any women’s rights issues and black judges couldn’t rule on any civil rights cases.  On the other side of the coin, a married straight person couldn’t rule on the issue either since, according to the defenders of Prop 8, the ban on same-sex marriage benefits “traditional marriage.”

The defenders of Prop 8, however, insist that their objection is not based on Walker’s sexual orientation—only his committed relationship.  I find this horribly ironic.  If Walker adhered to the ignorant and destructive stereotype of the “promiscuous” gay man, then he would be OK.  But since he lives in a stable and committed relationship, then suddenly he’s unethical.

The final oddity of the brief is that it relies on Walker’s findings that Prop 8 harms same-sex couples.  Cooper argues that Prop 8 definitely hurts same-sex couples in a significant way and, therefore, Walker had a significant stake in the outcome of the case.  So, if it wasn’t already obvious, the Prop 8 defenders want to hurt same-sex couples.  I believe that is called animus.


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