Commentary: Gay marriage gets another ruling in its favor

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton
Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton The Sacramento Bee

Little by little, in one court ruling after another, the legal opposition to gay marriage is being discredited.

It happened again Tuesday when lawyers against gay marriage were shot down in federal court after trying and failing to assassinate the character of a judge who had ruled against them.

Vaughn Walker, the former chief judge of the U.S. district court in San Francisco, had ruled that Proposition 8 – California's gay marriage ban – was unconstitutional. "Traditional" marriage lawyers didn't go after Walker on the merits of his ruling. They went after him because it was later learned that he is gay.

So what? Does that mean that African American judges can't rule on affirmative action cases? Or that female judges can't rule on reproductive rights? Or Latino judges can't rule on immigration cases?

Walker's successor, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, dismissed the argument Tuesday. "The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification," Ware wrote.

Frankly, this is what gay marriage opponents always do. During the Proposition 8 campaign of 2008, they played on fears and biases.

They mobilized people in the faith community who were moved by ancient interpretations of what marriage should be. They also scared enough people with manipulative commercials that warned of gay marriage being taught in schools.

In Walker's court, gay marriage opponents were defeated when Walker ruled that arguments against same-sex marriage denied gay people due process and equal protection under the law.

Many counter that Proposition 8 was the will of the people. Indeed it was, but was it constitutional?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering that question and whether Walker's ruling was right.

Regardless of his sexual orientation, how can Walker not be right?

It's one thing for Catholic leaders to deny gay marriage because they are moved by centuries-old canon law.

But how can a secular government deny gay marriage?

Whenever I've asked this question, I always get one in return: Are you gay?

No, I'm not.

The ideas being promoted here are due process and equal protection under the law. We either believe in them or we don't.

It's true that our religious beliefs can inform law. But they can't dictate law.

In clear and concise language, Walker essentially wrote that while striking down Proposition 8 last year.

Then the losing lawyers went after him. Gay marriage opponents couldn't beat him with reason or intellectual might. So they tried to discredit him personally and lost.

They better get used to it.

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