Category Archive 'Perry v. Schwarzenegger'

11 Aug 2010

Major Vulnerability in Same Sex Marriage Ruling

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Vaughn R. Walker

It seems that Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in Perry v. Schwartzenegger striking down the State of California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative which prohibited state recognition of Same Sex Marriage is highly vulnerable to being overturned on the grounds that the judge ought to have recused himself. John C. Eastman explains in the same San Francisco Chronicle which last February was assuring readers that Judge Walker’s personal sexual orientation was a “non-issue.”

Judge Vaughn Walker’s Proposition 8 decision last week has thrust his personal life into the limelight. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the fact that Judge Walker “is himself gay” is the “biggest open secret” in town. The BuzzTab blog calls him “the apple of gay advocators eyes.” The Los Angeles Times reported just last month, after the conclusion of closing arguments in the case, that he is “openly gay” and “attends bar functions with a companion, a physician.”

Is any of this relevant to Judge Walker’s ruling striking down Proposition 8?

Well, as University of Notre Dame law Professor Gerard Bradley recently noted, the mere fact that Judge Walker may be homosexual would not necessarily have required recusal. But the fact that he “attends bar functions with a companion, a physician,” and may therefore be in a stable homosexual relationship of the kind that could lead to marriage, is an entirely different matter.

The political philosopher John Locke noted in his Second Treatise on Civil Government that “it is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases (because) self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends.” That sentiment, undoubtedly true, is actually codified in federal law. A judge is required to disqualify himself in any proceeding “in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which: (a) the judge has … personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding; [or] … (c) the judge knows that the judge … has a financial … or any other interest that could be affected substantially by the outcome of the proceeding.”

If Judge Walker is indeed in a long-term, same-sex relationship, he certainly has an “interest that could be affected substantially by the outcome of the proceeding” – he and his partner are now permitted to marry! – and that, according to Judge Walker’s own finding, has financial benefits as well. Such conflicts would have required recusal, and cannot be waived by the parties.

06 Aug 2010

The Walker Decision

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National Review Online expresses justifiable indignation at the latest case of judicial outrage.

It has been clear since before the beginning of the year that Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco was on a mission to establish a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage and thereby to overturn California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment passed by the people of the state in 2008.

From his decision to have a “trial” of the “facts” in the case rather than proceed straightaway to legal arguments about the constitutional issues (a choice that surprised even the plaintiffs’ attorneys) to his attempt to stage a nationally televised extravaganza (brought to a halt by the Supreme Court) to his unconcealed bias in favor of the plaintiffs in virtually every aspect of the proceedings… , Judge Walker has been preparing us for a baldfaced usurpation of political power for quite a while.

What Walker did not prepare us for is the jaw-dropping experience of reading his sophomorically reasoned opinion. Of the 135 pages of the opinion proper, only the last 27 contain anything resembling a legal argument, while the rest is about equally divided between a summary of the trial proceedings and the judge’s “findings of fact.” The conclusions of law seem but an afterthought — conclusory, almost casually thin, raising more questions than they answer. On what grounds does Judge Walker hold that the considered moral judgment of the whole history of human civilization — that only men and women are capable of marrying each other — is nothing but a “private moral view” that provides no conceivable “rational basis” for legislation? Who can tell? Judge Walker’s smearing of the majority of Californians as irrational bigots blindly clinging to mere tradition suggests that he has run out of arguments and has nothing left but his reflexes.

But the deeper game Judge Walker is playing unfolds in those many pages of “fact finding” that make up the large middle of his ruling. There, through highly prejudicial language that bears little relation to any fact, the judge has smuggled in his own moral sentiments — in precisely the part of his opinion that would normally be owed a large measure of deference in the appellate courts.


William A. Jacobson is optimistic that Judge Walker’s decision will be overturned.

The politics of this opinion probably could not come at a worse time for Democrats. There is no groundswell of support for gay marriage, with even Obama having expressed the view during the campaign that marriage is between one man and one woman. The opinion attempts to short-circuit the political process by finding a constitutional right which most people — even people who might support gay marriage — do not recognize.

At the end of the day, I do not expect this decision to survive constitutionally, and the supporters of gay marriage may rue the day that they sought to impose a solution from the courts of law rather than the court of public opinion.


I’m less sanguine about Justice Kennedy’s likely ruling myself, though I think rational constitutional interpretation has at least a chance. I do think Erik Erikson is right in observing that, in the end, Americans can just add a clarifying amendment to the US Constitution and put a stop to the nonsense once and for all.

39 states have banned gay marriage.

It takes only 38 states to ratify a constitutional amendment.

A majority of the American public and three-quarters of the American states have been overruled by one federal judge in San Francisco. To be fair, the ruling only affects Northern California. It will be appealed. The odds are, for now, that the judge will be overruled.

But again and again the political elites in this country think they know best. From the mosque at Ground Zero to gay marriage to Obamacare, the majority of the people and states are forced to deal with a minority that does not respect them and democratic and legal institutions that oppose them.

If a minority of political elites and liberals can impose their will and values on a majority sufficient enough to amend the constitution, it is time for the majority to respond with constitutional force.

In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”

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