Homophobic Impeachment Effort Impedes Justice
This morning I learned that the American Family Association is calling for the impeachment of Judge Vaughn Walker for his decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Their reasoning is that Walker’s decision was made entirely based on the fact that he, himself, is gay and therefore demonstrates a failure to conduct himself with good behaviour. They even suggest that Judge Walker should have excused himself from the case given the ‘obvious conflict of interest.’ All of this despite the fact that legal scholars the country over, on all sides of the issue, have widely praised Walker for putting out a substantiated opinion.
Now I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the AFA. Their brand of right-wing conservatism isn’t my jam. Not to mention the fact that I, with my lesbian mom, and queer self, is not their demographic; in fact I guess I am kind of their enemy.
But something about their impeachment campaign is really, as I told my coworker this morning, putting a bee in my bonnet. For years, mostly white, mostly male, and mostly straight judges and politicians have examined and enacted laws that support the interests of said white, male, straight folks. How come it wasn’t a conflict of interest for Justice Alito to decide, as a male, to limit women’s rights to sue their employers for discrimination since that decision favored men? Should the straight judges who decided to criminalize “homosexual sex” in Bowers vs. Hardwick be viewed any different then the straight judges who overruled this decision in Lawrence vs Texas?
Though I am not shocked, I am still appalled that LGBTQ judges, not to mention judges who are women are people of color, are assumed to be less objective as students of the law and the Constitution than the white, straight men who have written and interpreted the law for years. I think that our courts are strongest when their leaders represent the diversity of population they represent- folks of many races, sexualities, genders and backgrounds. And while I agree that there need to be checks and balances to monitor the behaviour of judges, it is unthinkable to me that people can impeach someone for making a decision they merely don’t agree with.
In fact, Judge Walker is a fairly conservative judge who, for example, once ruled that the police used reasonable force when they pepper-sprayed anti-logging protesters. Not to mention that he was nominated to his seat by George H.W. Bush- no friend to the gays or the liberals. No matter his political inclinations, this witch trial over one decision just goes too far. If you do not think a judge is suited for a case, you need to bring up your questions before the trial. It is a mockery of our system when we wait to see how a judge rules and then, if you don’t like the ruling, call his suitability for the case into question.
While I don’t think the AFA’s campaign will be successful, it still ticks me off. And it clearly shows that it’s time to shift the way our society allows the scrutiny of certain judges (ie the ones who aren’t male, straight, and/or white) to interfere with justice. How do you think we can start that shift?
In the meantime, one way we can refuse to let the AFA “win” is to support State Attorney General Jerry Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger filing of papers asking Judge Walker to immediately enforce his decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional and to allow equal marriages to resume in California right away even as the case progresses to higher courts. Voice your support. Call in your support. And when right-wing groups like the AFA complain, make sure to raise your voice even louder. We can’t afford to let them dominate the public debate any longer and take away this week’s legal victory for fairness. And a few thousand Californian queer marriages might be just be the icing on the (wedding) cake.