May 3, 2011
Gay Marriage Opponents Push Appeal of Prop 8 Judge, Iowa Court Impeachment
Activists seeking to overturn court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage are focusing on the judges. In the on-going court process over California's Prop 8, those opposing same-sex marriage filed an appeal last week claiming that federal judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself because he is in a long-term relationship with a man.
Alliance Defend Fund (ADF) lawyers representing ProtectMarriage.com (Proposition 8's sponsors) said that Walker's sexuality per se was not an issue. “It is important to emphasize at the outset that we are not suggesting that a gay or lesbian judge could not sit on this case,” said the appeal.
Instead, the ADF and ProtectMarriage.com claimed that Walker would have benefited from the same-sex marriage California because he was in a long-term relationship with a man.
ADF lead attorney in the case, Andy Pugno, said in a statement, “The American people have a right to a fair judicial process, free from even the appearance of bias or prejudice. Judge Walker’s 10-year-long same-sex relationship creates the unavoidable impression that he was not the impartial judge the law requires.”
During the Proposition 8 trial, talk of Walker's sexuality were rumors. Earlier this month, however, Walker told reporters that he did not recuse himself because no one asked him too and because it did not think it was relevant.
“If you thought a judge’s sexuality, ethnicity, national origin (or) gender would prevent the judge from handling a case, that’s a very slippery slope. I don’t think it’s relevant,” Walker said.
In Iowa, freshmen legislators are also attacking the credibility of judges.
The Iowa state Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage violated the state's constitution. Voters reacted by removing three of the justices last November, a rare case of judges being removed by an electorate. Freshmen legislators in the Iowa legislature introduced resolutions of impeachment for the remaining four justices for "malfeasance in office.” The charge is based on the claim that the court usurped the legislature and violated the separation of powers.
Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) has blocked the impeachment effort. “While I agree with much of the reasoning behind the impeachment resolutions, I disagree with this remedy. I do not expect it to be debated on the floor of the House, and if it is, I will vote no,” Paulsen said.
The freshmen do not have enough votes to force a vote, which means that the Iowa justices are unlikely to be impeached this year.
According to the National Center for State Courts, several states each year attempt to remove or impeach sitting judges. Many involve hot-button issues of family, child-rearing, and marriage, and few are successful.