Last August, California District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8, California’s 2008 referendum banning same-sex marriage, as unconstitutional. While the case is on appeal, Prop 8 supporters have filed a motion arguing that Judge Walker’s ruling should be vacated because his long-term, same-sex relationship created a conflict of interest requiring recusal from the case.
Today on the Washington Post’s website, Adam Serwer dismantles these arguments. Serwer writes that Prop 8 supporters “are reduced to arguing, essentially, that Walker’s ruling should be vacated because he is gay.” He adds that this “faulty legal reasoning” does nothing to convince anyone that the pro-Prop 8 crowd’s marriage stance “amounts to anything other than prejudice.”
The problem is that this same logic could be applied to a straight, married judge hearing the case. After all, supporters of the same-sex marriage ban are arguing that marriage equality is so damaging to the institution of marriage that the government has a vital interest in making sure gays and lesbians can’t get married. That means that a straight, married judge couldn’t be expected to be impartial, either — after all, according to supporters of Prop 8, “the further deinstitutionalization of marriage caused by the legalization of same-sex marriage,” would directly impact married heterosexuals. Therefore, a heterosexual, married judge could be seen as having just as much “skin in the game” as Judge Walker.