Sponsors of Proposition 8 [text; JURIST news archive], California's same-sex marriage ban, on Monday filed a motion to vacate in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], arguing that the judge who struck down the marriage ban should have recused himself from the case [motion text; case materials] because of a conflict of interest. The motion said that District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has since retired from the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], was potentially biased in his ruling last year which found the marriage ban unconstitutional [JURIST report] because he has been in a long-term same-sex relationship. Attorneys for Protect Marriage [advocacy website], the organization sponsoring the ban, argued that Walker was in the same position as the same-sex couples who brought the case and that he had ruled in his own interest. The motion also alleged that Walker failed to properly admit his stake in the case:
Chief Judge Walker thus had a duty to disclose not only the facts concerning his relationship, but also his marriage intentions. ... Only if Chief Judge Walker had unequivocally disavowed any interest in marrying his partner could the parties and the public be confident that he did not have a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case. ... Because he did not do so when the case was assigned to him, and has not done so since, it must be presumed that he has an interest in marrying his partner and therefore was in fact the "judge in his own case."Walker admitted his relationship to the press [Reuters report] earlier this month and defended his decision, saying that race, gender and sexual orientation should not affect a judge's ability to rule on a case.
Last month, the Ninth Circuit denied a motion [JURIST report] filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris [official website] to lift the stay order [JURIST report] prohibiting gay couples from marrying while an appeal of the invalidation of Proposition 8 is pending. A week earlier, supporters of the marriage ban urged the Supreme Court of California [official website] to allow them to defend the measure [JURIST report] when state officials refuse to do so. When Walker struck down Proposition 8 last year, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former attorney general and current Governor Jerry Brown [official website], who were originally defendants in the lawsuit, refused to continue defending the measure on appeal [JURIST report], leaving defendant-intervenors Project Marriage and other groups to defend the law. In February, the Supreme Court of California announced that it would decide the critical procedural issue [JURIST report] to determine if the pending federal appeal of the invalidation of Proposition 8 can continue.