Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Only straight white Christian men can be objective

So, the press have finally gotten hold of the "open secret" that US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker is gay. Judge Walker is presiding over the Prop8 trial.

The response has been predictable. The forces of H8 claim that they can't get a fair hearing from Judge Walker, because he is gay.

Funny, you didn't hear anyone obsessing about the sexuality of the SCoCal justices when they found for, and then against, marriage equality.

Why is it that it is automatically assumed that a straight white guy isn't a homophobe, or a bigot, or an anti-Semite, but it IS assumed that a woman, a African American, or a gay, has to be biased? Apparently, only straight, white, Christian men can be objective. And moreover, apparently they always ARE objective. While chicks, blacks, and fags are completely untrustworthy, at least where their own minority status is concerned.

Think it through. To follow the Other Side's argument to its logical conclusion, women can't hear cases about women, blacks can't hear cases about blacks, and Jews can't hear cases about religion. But straight white Christian men get a bye on any suspicion of bias, even though they too have a gender, a race, a religion, and an orientation.

Judge Walker has had a distinguished career. He is a Republican appointee, who was opposed by many liberal and gay groups for his legal arguments against "The Gay Games" and other issues. There is no evidence of any judicial misbehavior. He was assigned randomly to this case. And the Other Side's lawyers did not complain about the judge. Regardless of who was hearing this trial, they put on a very bad case.

but you see, if they can reduce any of us, or all of us , to our sexuality and dismiss us. As Andrew Sullivan says,
And reduction of gay people entirely to their orientation - rendering them outside civil institutions as just citizens, rather than as members of a minority group - is, of course, precisely the Christianist argument. As readers know, I don't believe in using someone's identioty against them in this way. And one might add that Walker was not truly "outed." He was not leading a secret life. He was openly gay but didn't make a fuss of it and wanted not to make a fuss of it in his office.

Man, these culture wars grind up people's lives and souls.

UpdateHere are a couple of good articles on the subject of Judge Walker's orientation. First, from the SF Chronicle:
Vaughn Walker almost lost his chance to reach the federal bench because of claims that he was anti-gay and hostile to civil rights. Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his alleged "insensitivity" to gays and the poor. His first appointment, from President Ronald Reagan in 1987, stalled out in the Senate Judiciary Committee.....He was harshly criticized for putting a lien on the home of a gay-games leader who was dying of AIDS. Walker insisted that he was not anti-gay and was only doing his best to serve his client.....We now know what Walker never bothered to reveal when he was being castigated as anti-gay: He is gay, which changes neither his legal history nor his fitness for this assignment.

A judge's sexual orientation does not inherently shade his ability to read and interpret the U.S. Constitution with clear-eyed wisdom. Assuming this case advances on appeal, no matter how Walker rules, there almost certainly will be jurists who will need to set aside their religion's teachings - and, quite likely, the impact of their ruling on close friends or even a family member - as they do their utmost to uphold the meaning of the Constitution.

Walker did not think his private life was relevant to his ability to preside with fairness in the Prop. 8 trial. There is nothing in his long and laudable career to suggest otherwise.
And, from the Advocate, UC Irvine Dean of Law Erwin Chemerinsky writes
Judges constantly decide cases that might personally affect them or their family members. Female judges of reproductive age are allowed to decide cases involving the availability of abortion. Catholic judges can hear challenges to abortion laws even if their church threatens to deny them communion if they support abortion rights. Judges who are also parents can hear challenges to affirmative action programs even if they have children who might benefit or be hurt by the eventual decision..... there is no way to know what, if anything, Walker thinks on the issue before him as to whether Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

And even if his views were known, that doesn’t require his disqualification. Everyone knows how Justice Antonin Scalia or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will vote when the Supreme Court is next asked to overrule Roe v. Wade. Yet no one would ever suggest that this requires their recusal. Judges inevitably have views on the issues that will come before them.


Erika Baker said...

The judge is a threat precisely because he can be objective. There's no hoodwinking him about the dangerous tendencies of all gays and their destablising effect on society. He knows that's prejudiced nonsense.

And if your whole case is based on nothing but prejudiced nonsense, then you really really cannot cope with a judge you cannot deceive.

Paul (A.) said...

And evidently different judges do make a difference.

Should the defendants lose, however, they will have a huge burden to demonstrate bias.

I like the observation that Judge Walker "didn't make a fuss of it": No harm, no foul, then?

Want Some Wood said...

Couldn't have said it better myself!