Integrity Legal

27th April 2011

As the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community continues to evolve the political facets as well as the legal aspects of this issue continue to develop in real time. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some groups are questioning the decision by the California Judge in the Proposition 8 case to act as adjudicator in that case which found that depriving same sex couples the right to marry in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts is a violation of same sex couples’ civil rights. In order to shed more light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from an article recently posted on the official website of the Associated Press written by Lisa Leff:

At the center of the dispute is Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who issued the ruling last August declaring Proposition 8 to be an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians’ civil rights.

“We are not suggesting that a gay or lesbian judge could not sit on this case,” attorneys for the backers of Proposition 8 wrote in their motion filed Monday to overturn the landmark ruling. “Simply stated, under governing California law, Chief Judge Walker currently cannot marry his partner, but his decision in this case … would give him a right to do so.”

They claim Walker should have disclosed the relationship while presiding over the case and said if he had any interest in marrying his partner.

The administration of this blog strongly recommends that readers click upon the hyperlinks above to read further from this insightful article.

In the article cited above it was noted that some have argued that the Judge in this case should have recused rather than adjudicating the case. However, not everyone agrees that recusal was called for. Meanwhile, the issue of recusal simultaneously raises the issue of whether one’s sexual orientation is relevant to fulfilling public functions such as acting as an adjudicator. To quote further from the article noted above:

Experts in judicial ethics said Tuesday that carefully parsed line of reasoning is unlikely to prevail.

They pointed out that while courts have not yet had to wrestle with sexual orientation as grounds for judicial recusal, judges typically have rejected efforts to remove jurists based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, religion or even the contents of their investment portfolios.

“I don’t think this judge had any more duty to disclose his sexual orientation than a Christian or Jewish or Muslim judge has a duty to discuss their religion or a heterosexual judge has his duty to discuss their sexual orientation,” retired Illinois state Judge Raymond McKoski said.

The issue of sexual orientation and legal scrutiny thereof is one which will likely need to be adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court. Recently, the Obama administration clarified its position on this issue through the promulgation of the recent memorandum between Attorney General Eric Holder and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The administration seems to believe that the issue should be accorded “heightened scrutiny” by the United States Supreme Court. To be clear, this blogger believes that same sex couples’ rights are inalienable natural rights (reserved to the American People pursuant to the 10th Amendment) which cannot be infringed upon by mere governments. That stated, under the current system in the United States, the best method for gaining equal protection under the law for the LGBT community in a practical sense would be through legislative and/or judicial action. However, this blogger truly believes that the best argument in favor of recognition of same sex marriage stems from States’ Rights since multiple sovereign States have either allowed for legal recognition of such unions or actively legalize and/or solemnize same sex marriages. Another argument in favor of full recognition of same sex marriage stems from an Equal Protection analysis. As implied by the Holder memo, some believe that heightened scrutiny should be applied to these cases. This blogger does not disagree with that argument per se, as it does seem as though so-called “heightened scrutiny” or “intermediate scrutiny” might be more appropriate under the circumstances than, say, strict scrutiny. In any case, whatever level of scrutiny is utilized it is this blogger’s opinion that Federal lack of recognition of same sex marriage as well as the current ban in California pursuant to Proposition 8 are both in violation of the Constitution based upon either an analysis of the Full Faith and Credit Clause or the Equal Protection Clause.

In this blogger’s personal opinion, the Judge noted above should not have had to recuse under the circumstances for many of the reasons noted above. That said, this blogger remains convinced that the currently pending appeal of a similar decision in Massachusetts Federal Court is more likely to result in gains for the LGBT community as that case rests upon more sound Constitutional footing (namely, States Rights: the reader is asked to bear in mind that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution believed that the most sovereign power under the U.S. Constitution resides with the American States). Whatever the outcome in either case, the struggle for equal protection of the LGBT community under the law of the United States must continue until the current grievances are redressed.

On the legislative front, it was recently announced that Representative Jerrold Nadler as well as other Federal legislators are currently supporting legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would overcome the current legal hurdles placed in the way of LGBT couples by the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). At the time of this writing it remains to be seen whether these bills will be enacted.

For related information please see: US Visa For Same Sex Bi-National Couples.


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