Printed letters, August 12, 2010
Judge’s sexual orientation was not a factor in case
The Daily Sentinel’s Aug. 6 editorial was the most ridiculous piece of commentary I have read in recent memory.
Judges are just that. They are elected or appointed to judge an issue of law. Using the editorial’s reasoning, a judge who is an avid sports fan should not judge a case about anti-trust; a heterosexual judge should not judge cases of divorce; a black, Hispanic or any other minority judge should not decide cases about discrimination, etc.
The fact that the proponents of Proposition 8 had no objection to Judge Walker’s assignment says a lot about them, and him.
After reading the editorial, I came away with the impression there was a lot of homophobic reasoning at work in the composing of this opinion.
Dual standard exists on views about gays
So it is perfectly all right for an openly gay judge to rule and strike down California’s Proposition 8 (same-sex marriage), but if a college student who is majoring in counseling openly states her position on the homosexual lifestyle, she is expelled from school.
Anybody see anything wrong with this picture?
Proposition 8 was invalid, no matter who sat as judge
The Daily Sentinel’s editorial asserting that Judge Walker should have disqualified himself from ruling on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 is based on a misunderstanding of the relevant legal standards. If such vague, generalized suspicions of bias were enough to disqualify a judge, no black judge could decide a civil rights case, no Christian judge could decide a case concerning the separation of church and state, and no female judge could consider cases concerning sex discrimination.
Beyond that, heterosexual judges would be equally susceptible to suspicions of bias. Heterosexuals are currently unjustly enriched because, while gay men and lesbians are taxed at the same rate, they are not eligible for the hundreds of economic benefits contingent on marriage. In addition, opponents of gay marriage have argued that allowing homosexuals to marry would reduce the prestige or value of the institution of marriage. Many heterosexuals clearly felt that they have as much to lose if Proposition 8 was invalidated as gay people had to gain.
Perhaps The Daily Sentinel could contribute more to the debate over gay marriage if it tried to dispel the absurd idea that if we remove the social stigma and economic penalties from being homosexual, then large numbers of people who are now presumed to be heterosexual will seek same-sex relationships.
Denying gay people the right to marry is both punitive and pointless, and it was Proposition 8’s lack of any reasonable connection to a valid state objective that would have required any judge with integrity to invalidate it.
Judge in gay marriage case was exemplary
The Daily Sentinel’s Aug. 6 editorial titled, “Gay judge wrong to rule on marriage case,” shows an ugly bias on the part of those who wrote it.
Try replacing “openly gay” with one or all of the following with varied legal judgments in mind: “openly straight,” “openly Caucasian,” “openly African American,” “openly Native American,” “openly mixed race,” “openly senior citizen,” “openly teenager,” “openly a person with disability,” “openly Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or atheist.” The list could be endless.
Only the last on my list is a matter of choice, one’s religion or lack thereof. All other classifications are a matter of birth, life’s progression or possibly in the case of disability or accident.
“Gay” is not a choice. It is a fact of nature. It is past time that equal rights be given to all. From reading and listening to various reports, Judge Vaughn Walker was exemplary in the performance of his duties.
With true impartiality, orientation won’t matter
Regarding The Daily Sentinel’s Aug. 6 editorial arguing that Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself from the Proposition 8 case in California because he is gay and the case is a “bellwether case involving gay rights,” I am confused as to the reasoning behind the call for recusal.
The editorial’s presumption of impropriety is itself an example of the kind of social and legal inequality such cases attempt to redress. If a judge cannot hear a case due to his or her sexual orientation, do not heterosexual judges have similar vested interests, and should not these jurists also recuse themselves?
The assumption that one’s sexual orientation negates one’s ability to rule impartially makes no more sense than arguing that a black or Asian or Hispanic judge should recuse himself from hearing a case involving racial issues, or that a woman should not hear a case about abortion law.
When we truly have impartiality in the justice system, we won’t be asking ourselves whether the jurist is gay or not gay, but whether the decision itself is constitutionally sound.