SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge's long-term relationship with another man was the subject of an unprecedented court hearing Monday that sparked sharp exchanges about whether the now-retired jurist had a duty to divulge whether he wanted to marry his own gay partner before he struck down California's same-sex marriage ban.
Lawyers for backers of the voter-approved ban asked Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware to vacate a decision issued by his predecessor last year that declared Proposition 8 an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians' civil rights.
They maintained that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself from the case or disclosed his relationship because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from the verdict.
"It now appears that Judge Walker, at the time the complaint was filed and throughout this litigation, occupied precisely those same shoes as the plaintiffs," attorney Charles Cooper said.
Theodore Boutrous Jr., on the legal team representing the gay couples, called the effort to disqualify Walker "frivolous, offensive and deeply unfortunate."
"They are targeting Judge Walker because he is gay," Boutrous said.