Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional won't be thrown out because the judge is gay. But the same-sex marriage ruling is still being challenged, we'll find out what's next in the process.
Latest Ruling In Prop. 8 Case
An effort has failed to disqualify the Federal Judge who ruled that California's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. But the legal battle over Proposition 8 is far from over.
Kevin Keenan is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for San Diego and Imperial Counties.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: An effort has failed to disqualify the federal judge who ruled that California's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. But the proposition aid legal battle is far from over. Joining me is Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU for San Diego and Imperial counties. Hi Kevin.
KEVIN KEENAN: Good afternoon, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why did prop 8 supporters petition to disqualify the judge?
KEVIN KEENAN: In about April the judge revealed that he is gay and has been in a relationship with a doctor for about 10 years. The supporters of prop eight believe that that should disqualify him from hearing the marriage decision and it made him too biased.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are talking about Judge Vaughn Walker that issued the ruling that California's proposition eight is unconstitutional. If he had been found that there was a conflict of interest with the ruling would it have been vacated?
KEVIN KEENAN: Yeah it would have been vacated and probably that would've been appealed as you know, but as you know the opposite was found. It was found that he was not biased that he could not be ruled out for that reason and therefore the decision stands.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why did the court said Judge Walker could not be disqualified?
KEVIN KEENAN: It's a great important and interesting decision the first time this has been held not only with respect to judges who are gay but as well a number of times with women judges who are holding a hearing employment discrimination cases, minority or African-American judges hearing civil rights cases and it was essentially the same logic. When you're dealing with these fundamental American values of equality and fairness and privacy, all those issues, every American has an equal stake and it is a slippery slope to get into disqualify judges because they exist in life and society and deal with them those great values themselves and live lives that involve love and relationship and these other things that all of us deal with.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Part of the ruling didn't it say that just because a judge may be a member of a class that is going to benefit from the ruling it doesn't necessarily mean that they have a personal stake in it?
KEVIN KEENAN: That's right and it is broader than that. If you got into dissecting people by their sort of personal identity characteristics and relationships that you start finding lawyers who are framing all their cases and ways to disqualify judges that they don't like. So for both the basic fairness and the orderliness of our courts and legal system our opinion is that this was the right decision. You do not want to go down this road.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Judge Walker's ruling that prop 8 was unconstitutional was not disqualified because of a conflict of interest but it is still being challenged. What is next in this process?
KEVIN KEENAN: The whole decision is still under appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There is a sub issue that has been kicked back to the California Supreme Court. That sub issue is who has the standing to bring this appeal. The California governor and attorney general are not going to defend propagate, so the question before the California Supreme Court is Kim the County of Imperial in California take up the defense. So once the sub issue is decided we are expecting arguments for the California Supreme Court probably in September, then it will go back to the Ninth Circuit to add that to the mix and roll on the broader issue of whether Judge Walker's decision was the right one.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To a non-attorney all of that sounds very confusing.
KEVIN KEENAN: To an attorney as well, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When might there be some kind of decision by the Court of Appeals so that this may and go on to the Supreme Court? The US Supreme Court?
KEVIN KEENAN: Nobody knows, but we will know more in the fall how things are things are proceeding again when they can or should hear arguments before the Ninth Circuit but it could go on for years because the Ninth Circuit is not on a fixed schedule.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Kevin Keenan executive director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties. You can read the most recent prop 8 ruling on our website @KPBS.org. Thanks a lot, Kevin.
KEVIN KEENAN: Thank you, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up a plan to divert traffic in Balboa Park by way of a new highway ramp has lost support in the San Diego city Council. We will speak with one San Diego city Council member who is now against it. And later the challenges and hopes of many of the new San Diegans are honored as the city marks world refugee Day. It is 12:22. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.