What once was dismissed as unthinkable is now becoming a reality in the United States of America. Proponents of same sex marriages won a major battle this week when U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker handed down a ruling that overturned California's "Proposition 8," a ban on same sex marriages voted on by citizens of the state. In short, his decision was based on the notion that Proposition 8 violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution -- notably the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause.
Before addressing the Constitutional issues of the case, one very important question should be examined. Is Judge Walker gay? According to news sources around the San Francisco area, he is. Though Walker has never publicly made his sexual preferences known, this appears to be what The Huffington Post referred to as an 'open secret.' Interesting. If we can presume Walker is gay, now the plot becomes more complicated. Should Walker have recused himself in a case that affects the entire citizenry of California and could also ultimately affect the entire nation?
Opinions vary from different legal experts (and from the average citizen). As expected, those who tend to be conservative cry foul while the liberals seem to see no conflict of interest. In a way, I can see the perspective of the liberal point of view. If the judge were a devout, fundamentalist Christian, would we expect him to recuse himself from the case? Perhaps each side would magically change their perspective.
Despite the validity of the liberal perspective, the issue of gay marriage is so unique and important to almost all sectors of society, that the mere perception of impropriety should have been enough for this judge to recuse himself. When this case inevitably reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, will gay rights advocates demand Justice Antonin Scalia recuse himself? Interesting to think about.
As far as homosexuality itself, the population of the United States remains divided about the morality of the behavior. Although considered by many to be an immoral behavior, I do not believe the sexual acts between consenting adults should be illegal. Many behaviors in our society are considered immoral yet not subject to civil or criminal penalties. However, the marriage between same sex couples goes beyond what is acceptable. Allowing these types of marriages is tantamount to a government endorsement of what many believe to be an immoral behavior -- also putting it on par with marriage between between heterosexual couples.
Critics of this perspective would point out the high divorce rates in our nation and the passe nature a marriage is treated with in today's society. If marriage has lost its significance and sanctity, why not allow a "discriminated" segment of society to have the ability to marry? Definitely not the way to restore the special nature and seriousness of the commitment of marriage. Perhaps what the nation should be doing is making divorce a more difficult process. Hopefully this would make couples think twice about who they marry or abandoning such an important commitment.
Others would still point out many other industrialized nations have legalized same sex marriages. Another case of poor rationale. Are we as a society supposed to make choices based on what other nations of the world do? Not to mention, only a handful -- seven, to be precise -- permit same sex marriages.