A federal appeals court on Thursday
sounded skeptical of the argument that last year's ruling against
California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, should be tossed out
because the judge in the case did not disclose that he is gay and in
a long-term relationship, The
Los Angeles Times reported.
Protect Marriage, the coalition of
mostly Christian conservative groups defending the law, argue that
federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's August 2010 ruling
overturning the 2008 voter-approved law should be invalidated because
Walker has since acknowledged that he's gay and in a ten-year
relationship with a male physician.
The 67-year-old Walker acknowledged his
sexual orientation after he ruled on the case and has subsequently
retired from the bench.
But the U.S. 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals three-judge panel appeared unswayed by the argument.
“So a married judge could never hear
a divorce?” asked Judge Michael Daly Hawkins.
“What about an unmarried heterosexual
judge who wants to maintain the definition of marriage?” asked
Judge N. Randy Smith, a Republican appointee. “Does he have to
Representing Protect Marriage, lawyer
Charles J. Cooper said it would be “a dark day in American
jurisprudence” if courts allowed a gay judge who wanted to marry to
decide the issue.
“There is no case anywhere in
American jurisprudence that says a judge who is a minority, because
he is a minority, can sit on his own case,” Cooper told the judges.
Judge Hawkins observed that there was
no proof that Walker wanted to marry, noting that Walker did not
marry during the five months when gay marriage was legal in 2008.
The court, which is also reviewing an
appeal on Walker's ruling, seemed inclined to rule in Protect
Marriage's favor in its effort to keep videotapes of the Proposition
8 trial sealed.
The judges noted that Walker promised
not to make the tapes public.
“[T]he word of the court is supposed
to mean something,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt.