HRC Blog

Motion to Vacate Prop 8 Ruling Invalidated

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director. HRC Legal Assistant Jessica Singleton contributed to this post.

A federal judge today rejected efforts by proponents of Proposition 8 to invalidate the historic decision by now-retired Judge Vaughn Walker invalidating California’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown).  In their motion to vacate, attorneys for Prop 8 argued that Judge Walker, who has come out as gay since his retirement, should have recused himself from the Prop 8 case because he “has been in a committed relationship for more than 10 years.” The motion claimed that Judge Walker’s potential for personal benefit inherently impaired his ability to be an impartial judge in a case about marriage equality.

Less than 24 hours after hearing arguments on the motion to vacate, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware issued a strongly worded ruling rebuking the flawed logic and dearth of evidence presented by the proponents of Prop 8. Judge Ware wrote:

“The presumption that Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief. On the contrary: it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits.”

This ruling comes as little surprise to those who followed yesterday’s hearing, during which Judge Ware vigorously questioned the arguments presented by the proponents’ attorney Charles Cooper.  While today’s ruling leaves Judge Walker’s decision in place, the case remains under consideration on appeal by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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