Sunday, February 14, 2016

A judge out of time

A judge out of time


I don't have a lot to say about the ruling on the Proposition 8 case over gay marriage in California -- the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages was overturned by a federal judge -- because the only decision that counts will be made by the monstrosity that is the John Roberts Supreme Court, and one can imagine how that one will go down. This was like the equivalent of that pre-season game the Birds play against the Jets every August, entertaining for a moment or two but largely meaningless. I'm guessing the only leftover excitement tomorrow will be when right-wing radio goes after the chief federal judge of the circuit in northern California, Vaughn Walker, as another loopy California liberal activist judge.

Really? Except that Ronald Reagan tried to name Walker to the bench way back in 1987, and his first nomination was blocked by liberal Democrats in Congress. One reason? He was perceived as anti-gay, because he represented the Los Angeles Olympic Committee in suing to shut down an event called "the Gay Olympics." But there's more. Walker -- who was nominated again by the next Republican, George H.W. Bush, and confirmed -- is gay. He is currently one of only two openly gay federal judges. And despite his support from Reagan and Bush 41, he's not exactly a conservative but an honest-to-goodness libertarian. Thus, liberals still complain about Walker favoring rich people in many key decisions. But he's also a proponent of drug legalization. And now he's issued what is -- until it's probably overturned -- one of the landmark progressive rulings of the 21st Century.

The thing is, I'm wondering if someone like Vaughn Walker could ever become a federal judge today. We want people to fit into the Glenn Beck box or the Michael Moore box in their ideology, and someone with libertarian and iconoclastic views will probably just end up offending potential supporters on both sides. To me that's the most interesting thing about today's ruling -- the guy who made it. Even if you disagree with the verdict, I think someday soon you're going to miss free-thinking judges when they're gone.

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Will Bunch
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