News broke earlier this week that Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Proposition 8 trial, is gay. David Lat over at Above the Law asked whether it matters:

It does.

It's true that the judge had to be either gay or straight–and bias from either orientation would have threatened to color his judgment in crafting the trial record. Just like in any case, it's the judge's job to minimize personal biases.

Still, even if the judge's ruling doesn't affect the ruling in this particular case, it might alter how the public will view the trial. And one of the most important aspects of this trial was publicizing the effect of marriage discrimination and the lack of evidence in how gay marriage harms straight marriage.

That's why the debate surrounding the YouTube broadcasting was such a big deal–public opinion of gay marriage was at stake.

Said one commenter on Above the Law,

The judge is gay? That’s a lose-lose situation for the gay marriage people. If he rules it unconstitutional, opponents will say it’s a biased outcome. If he rules it constitutional, opponents will say ‘even a gay judge doesn’t think your position is valid.

In this way, the Proposition 8 trial now risks lowering, or leaving the same, public support for gay marriage where before it may have increased it.

Ultimately the outcome will determine whether California joins the other gay marriage states.

[Cross-posted at the Gay Couples Law Blog. Published by Gideon Alper, who also publishes the Atlanta Divorce Law Blog, it discusses same sex family law, estate planning, and taxes.

Gideon Alper

Gideon Alper

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