A hearing which was fast-tracked by U.S. District Judge James Ware in April is set to take place today. The hearing was prompted by a motion from proponents of Proposition 8 over the fact that Judge Vaughn Walker, who overturned California's ban on same-sex marriage, is in a relationship with a man.
Our legal expert Ari Ezra Waldman wrote his take on the motion back in April. Read it here.
Lawyers for the sponsors of the voter-approved ban are asking the chief federal judge in San Francisco to vacate the decision issued by his predecessor last year that declared Proposition 8 an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians' civil rights. They maintain that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship status before trial because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from Walker's verdict.
Attorneys for the ban's backers and for two same-sex couples who successfully sued to overturn the measure in Walker's court are scheduled to present arguments on that question to Chief U.S. Judge James Ware, who could rule from the bench or at a later date.
The New York Times has ripped efforts by Prop 8 proponents to vacate the ruling:
Indeed, following the open-ended logic of Proposition 8’s lawyers, it is hard to think who, if anyone, is qualified to rule on this case. Certainly not wedded heterosexual judges whose marriages stand to be somehow diminished, according to the antimarriage crowd, if Judge Walker’s ruling survives appeal in federal circuit court.
"This stinks of desperation on the part of Prop 8 supporters," said Jon Davidson, Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "Everyone has constitutional rights, so cases that raise constitutional issues routinely affect the public at large, including judges. But that's no basis for recusal, here or in any case. A female judge has no duty to recuse herself from hearing a case involving women's right to vote, even if she wanted to vote. It would be absurd if, in order to rule on discrimination claims, judges would need to practice discrimination themselves. And the notion that being in a same-sex relationship renders a judge unable to interpret the law and uphold the sworn duty to rule impartially is insulting to both judges and America's system of justice."
Governor Jerry Brown's attorneys filed papers at the same time accusing Prop 8 proponents of engaging in a "witch hunt" against Walker.
The hearing is scheduled for 9 am in San Francisco.