SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge on Tuesday refused to invalidate last year's ruling against Proposition 8, deciding the gay jurist who overturned the same-sex marriage ban had no obligation to step aside because of a possible conflict of interest.
The decision by Chief Judge James Ware of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco left the ruling by retired Judge Vaughn R. Walker in place. Walker's decision remains on hold pending a separate appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Walker, 67, an openly gay judge, told reporters after he retired in February that he and his partner, a physician, have been together for 10 years. ProtectMarriage, the proponent of Proposition 8, said Walker should have disclosed that prior to trial, and it asked Ware to throw out his ruling.
Proponents of Proposition 8 argued that Walker's committed relationship, which he may eventually want to formalize, gave the impression that he was not impartial.
Walker, a Republican appointee, has never said publicly whether he wished to marry his partner. But he told reporters that he never considered his sexual orientation grounds for declining to preside over the Proposition 8 challenge.
Tuesday's ruling followed a three-hour hearing Monday in San Francisco in which backers of Proposition 8 argued that Walker had a personal stake in the outcome of the marriage debate while opponents of the ban countered that the challenge was a veiled attack on Walker's sexual orientation.
No court has ever upheld the removal of a judge from a civil rights case because of his or her race, religion or gender, according to lawyers in the case.
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