By LISA LEFF, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO – Claims by the group that sponsored California’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban that the federal judge who overturned the law was biased because he is in a relationship with another man are “factually groundless and legally insupportable,” lawyers for two same-sex couples said Friday.
The legal team that successfully challenged the ban in Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s court last year argued in legal papers that the now-retired jurist had no obligation to reveal his sexual orientation or relationship status before he ruled that Proposition 8 violated the civil rights of gay Californians.
The ban’s backers “lack any factual basis to assume that Judge Walker wishes to marry…and instead rely on nothing more than the fact that he is gay, in a relationship with a person of the same sex, and recognizes in his decision the importance of marriage in American society,” the attorneys wrote. “Such unvarnished speculation does not come close to meeting the statutory requirements for compelling a judge’s recusal.”
The religious coalition that sponsored Proposition 8 moved last month to have Walker’s historic ruling invalidated on the grounds that he stood to personally benefit from it.
The group’s lawyers asked Walker’s successor as chief federal trial judge in San Francisco to rule that Walker should have disqualified himself from hearing the case or at least disclosed his same-sex relationship.
In disputing that assertion, lawyers Theodore Olson and David Boies, who represented George W. Bush and Al Gore in the contested 2000 presidential election, said a married heterosexual judge could have been accused of bias just as readily because Proposition 8’s supporters argued at trial that legalizing same-sex marriages would undermine traditional unions and harm children.
“In fact, under proponents’ reasoning, African-American and female judges would have been required to recuse themselves in the most important civil rights cases in American history and all judges would be required to disclose their most private thoughts and relationships in order to preside over any case that involves constitutional rights they might conceivably want to secure for themselves and their families,” the couples’ lawyers said. “That is not the law – and our nation is much the better for it.”