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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Federal Court Rules Being Gay Not Grounds for Recusal: Lambda Legal Applauds

"Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional because it is unconstitutional - not because the judge is gay."

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled today that being gay doesn't disqualify a judge from ruling impartially on a case involving rights that impact lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

Just yesterday the court heard oral arguments on a motion filed by Prop 8 proponents seeking to overturn Judge Walker's ruling striking down Prop 8 as unconstitutional because he has been in a relationship with another man for ten years.  

Peter Renn, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office based in Los Angeles, attended yesterday's hearing.

"The court decisively rejected an outrageous attack on the integrity of Judge Walker, not to mention judges in general. The motion was a sideshow designed to deflect attention from the fact that the proponents had every chance to prove that Prop 8 was constitutional, but could not do so. Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional because it is unconstitutional - not because the judge is gay," Renn said.


Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of Northern California and Equality California filed a friend-of-the-court brief last month arguing that the Prop 8 supporters' motion closely parallels long-discredited historical attempts to disqualify judges based on their race, sex or religion. The groups contend that the Prop 8 supporters' argument boils down to the notion that essentially no lesbian, gay or bisexual judge could impartially preside over a case involving the rights of same-sex couples - an offensive suggestion that has been consistently rejected by the courts in similar cases involving race and sex discrimination.

Lambda Legal's Fair Courts Project engages the LGBT and HIV-affected communities to learn about the proper role of the judiciary, the importance of judicial fairness and the need to encourage people across the nation to take action to support an independent judiciary. When courts uphold laws and constitutional principles that protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, they often face anti-court backlash such as this latest motion by Prop 8 proponents who are seeking to have Judge Walker's decision striking down Prop 8 overturned.

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