Prop 8 Proponents’ self-serving argument for reversal
May 24th, 2011
Let’s start with reality: those who are leading the effort to defend Proposition 8 believe that homosexuality should be illegal, that gay people should be denied adoption, immigration, employment and housing protection, and any other rights that can be conceived or considered. This is not accusation or characterization, it is a factual observation based on many years of hearing and reading what they had to say.
So it is not speculative to say that they do not believe that a gay person should serve as a judge over heterosexuals, at all. Ever. And when issues relating to anti-gay discrimination are being decided, it seems obvious to them that any and every gay judge should recuse themselves.
But you can’t come right out and say that gay judges are disqualified from serving as judges because they are gay. Even the most self-satisfied homophobe knows that appeals to bigotry are not well received by the legal community.
So the Proposition 8 Proponents have come up with a peculiar strategy: pretend that they are okay with gay judges in general, just not in this particular situation. Judge Walker could preside over some other theoretical case, they say.
We know of no reason to believe, for example, that Judge Walker would have any personal interest in the outcome of litigation over, say, the constitutionality of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
And it isn’t that he’s gay that is the issue. No no no. It’s because he’s in a relationship, you see. Other gay people, those not in relationships, could judge the case.
Nor would there be any issue with a gay or lesbian judge hearing this case so long as a reasonable person, knowing all of the relevant facts and circumstances, would not have reason to believe that the judge has a personal interest in marrying if Plaintiffs prevailed. The particular facts and circumstances that give rise to such a reasonable concern in this case — Judge Walker’s ten-year same-sex relationship, his refusal to disclose both his relationship and whether he and his partner have any interest in marriage, his findings concerning the manifold benefits of marriage for “committed, long-term same-sex relationships,” and the extraordinary rulings and course of proceedings in this case — plainly do not necessarily exist for all or even most gay and lesbian citizens or judges.
So, you see, some other gay judge would have been just fine.
But let’s just look at the logic of their assertion: Judge Walker should have recused himself because, as he is in a ten year relationship, therefore the case could directly and substantially affect the judge’s own personal interests.
But Proposition 8 did not deny marriage rights to same-sex couples in ten year relationships. It denied marriage rights to all gay individuals who might ever seek to marry someone of the same sex. It didn’t matter if she were part of a long-standing couple or had just Ms. Right. All gay persons would be equally impacted by a reversal of Proposition 8. Every gay person, whether long coupled or long single, is equally barred from marrying on the day that they decide they wish to marry.
Except for a unique few. Let’s look again at their language:
Nor would there be any issue with a gay or lesbian judge hearing this case so long as a reasonable person, knowing all of the relevant facts and circumstances, would not have reason to believe that the judge has a personal interest in marrying if Plaintiffs prevailed.
The only acceptable gay judge, to the Prop 8 Proponents, is one who could convince them that he would never ever want to marry. That he has eliminated the idea of marriage from all of his possible futures. In other words, the only gay judge that the Proponents would accept would be one that announced, in advance, that he is personally opposed to same-sex marriage.
I wonder how we’d apply that criteria to other civil rights cases.