As I read the news about Protectmarriage.com’s challenging of Judge Vernon Walker’s ruling against California’s Prop 8, I was astounded at the sheer stupidity of the challenge itself, and it brought to mind the “Chewbacca Defense” from South Park fame. For those unfamiliar with the Prop 8 case and the recent appeal, several Californians were grasping at straws to stop the state from moving back towards marriage equality by appealing retired Judge Vernon Walker’s original ruling since he had since come out as gay and stated that he had a long-time partner. For those unfamiliar with South Park’s “Chewbacca Defense,” an episode highlighted a lawsuit by Chef against a big record company that stole one of his songs, and record company attorney Johnny Cochran pulled out a picture of Chewbacca and argued that it didn’t make any sense that a wookie would live on Endor with a bunch of Ewoks, and while it had nothing to do with the case, if Chewbacca living with Ewoks didn’t make sense, then you must acquit the record company. Click Here to watch the South Park Video
Yeah, it didn’t make sense, but neither did the logic behind the appeal. What was actually argued was Judge Walker could not possibly render an impartial ruling on whether or not Prop 8 was properly executed because he was gay and had a partner at the time. Here’s what makes the reasoning behind this argument absurd if we follow it in other cases:
- In any divorce case, a judge who is married couldn’t possibly be impartial because they would obviously favor marriage and could not render a fair ruling based on the facts
- In any divorce case, a judge who is divorced couldn’t possibly be impartial because they would obviously favor one side or the other based on their experiences in their own divorce
- In any divorce case, a judge who was never married couldn’t possibly be impartial because they could never comprehend the commitment that was made and what it means to break it in a divorce proceeding
If we follow the logic of Protectmarriage.com’s argument, then all of these instances would be true and we could never have any judge rule on any divorce case because they would be biased. But that logic is not nearly as grotesque as why these Californians actually believed the bias to be true. Not the divorce situations I listed above, but that Judge Walker couldn’t possibly render a fair ruling.
In their mind, as a gay man Judge Walker couldn’t be anything other than their vision of a gay man focused always on gay sex and advancing a gay agenda. It is nothing more than the same prejudiced, racist, attitudes that assume all people in their narrow definition of a class behave exactly the same. It is just like racists who will say all African Americans are lazy and unemployed, or that teenage Latino women are always pregnant and can never be anything more. In their eyes, gay males are always focused on gay sex, can’t do their jobs without having some kind gay agenda behind it, and, as evidenced in the pushes to “protect the children” by outlawing gay couples being foster parents or adopting, it must be because they are all pedophiles or will somehow turn the children gay. In their eyes, a gay man can’t be or do anything but.
The fact is that members of the LGBT community are no more and no less slaves to their sexual orientation than heterosexuals are, and judges are no exception. Who they love is only a small part of their makeup as a citizen, a professional, and an impartial jurist of the court. It is their job to render verdicts based on the law, the constitutional, and sound reasoning… not on their own prejudices.
Thankfully Judge James Ware didn’t buy into the false logic and let the decision stand. Further, he defended Judge Walker’s ruling on the merits of the case and didn’t delve into the rancid prejudice that laid below the surface of their argument. Judge Ware said it best in the ruling:
“The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification under Section 455(b)(4). Further, under Section 455(a), it is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings. Accordingly, the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED.”
Thankfully, this flawed logic and prejudice was also DENIED.