Saturday, October 03, 2009

Motives of Prop. 8 proponents relevant to court case

I don't know quite what to make of this. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker has ordered the sponsors of Prop. 8 (California's ban on gay marriages passed last year) to make public emails and memos that discussed campaign strategy and messaging. A federal civil rights suit maintains that Prop. 8 was intended to deprive a minority of their civil rights -- something the Supreme Court outlawed in Romer v. Evans in 1996, overturning a Colorado anti-gay ballot measure.

"The intent or purpose of Prop. 8 is central to this litigation," Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker declared Thursday in requiring backers of the November 2008 measure to give the opposing side their internal campaign communications. ...

He amplified that view Thursday in ordering Prop. 8's sponsors to disclose documents, including notes and e-mails between campaign officials and consultants, that discussed their strategy and the message they wanted to send to the voters.

Although "voters cannot be asked to explain their votes," Walker said, a ballot measure's authors and strategists can be scrutinized to see what their motives were.

San Francisco Chronicle, 10-2-2009

Walker's order certainly suggests he is willing to take seriously the plaintiffs' argument against Prop. 8 as an improper deprivation of constitutional rights.

As a person who has generated campaign memos, I'm mightily curious about what will come out. I assume the motivation for Prop. 8 was malice against gay equality, but I would not be surprised if plaintiffs have a hard time proving it.

It feels ironic that Judge Walker is the guy who gets to decide these arguments. Like much of the LGBT community, I was horrified by his appointment to the Federal bench in 1987 by Ronald Reagan. For gay people of that era, he was the establishment attorney who had hounded former decathlete Dr. Tom Waddell for having launched the "Gay Olympics," thereby infringing on the U.S. Olympic Committee copyright. We saw the copyright case as transparent bigotry -- they never objected to such usages as the Police Olympics. But when the gays wanted their own sporting fest, somehow that would hurt the USOC's property. Waddell was dying of AIDS when Walker got a lien on his house to cover USOC legal expenses. The Gay Olympics were eventually renamed the Gay Games -- and Waddell died wondering what he'd be able to leave to his daughter. We fought Walker's confirmation for two years.

Nowadays, Walker is known to civil libertarians as the judge who has kept alive some miniscule possibility of discovery of the scale of the Bush administration's grab-bag wire tapping. He has refused both Bush and Obama administration requests for a blanket dismissal. Who knew this white male heterosexual pillar of the establishment would turn out to be a jurist who charted his own interesting course? How very San Francisco of him ...

2 comments:

Darlene said...

I certainly hope that His Honor has honor and doesn't harbor some feelings of bigotry.

Of course the ones that got Prop. 8 on the ballot did it because it interfered with their narrow minded religious beliefs. How else can you read it when the Mormon Church was the one spending the money to push for it?

sfmike said...

Some judges become wiser in office, others the opposite. It would be a fascinating study to see why each trajectory tends to happen.

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