Retired federal judge Vaughn R. Walker did not disclose that he was gay, and in a 10-year relationship with his partner, before ruling that the challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. His decision is now before an appeals court, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A conservative Christian group ProtectMarriage has asked a federal judge to void Walker's ruling on the grounds that he might benefit from his own decision if he wishes to marry his partner. The appeal, set for June 13, has sparked a debate over legal ethics.
Under federal law, judges can be disqualified from cases because of financial interests, friendships with litigants, or a personal bias or prejudice. Charles J. Cooper, representing ProtectMarriage, said that Walker would not be disqualified from all gay rights cases, e.g., he could rule on open homosexuality in the military, because that would not affect him. But Walker's long-term relationship, and determination that marriage offers benefits for those in "committed, long-term, same-sex relationships," suggest that Walker had a personal interest in the outcome.