Legal Ethics

Liberal Judge Refuses to Bow Out of Same-Sex Marriage Appeal, Despite Wife’s ACLU Past

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Updated: Opponents of same-sex marriage in California have lost their bid to disqualify a liberal judge on the panel appointed to hear their appeal that was based on his wife’s history with the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Wednesday, sponsors of the state’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage asked Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove himself from the case, the San Jose Mercury News reports. His wife, Ramona Ripston, is stepping down as executive director of the ACLU’s Southern California chapter. Ripston and the ACLU have opposed Proposition 8 “and have been active participants in this very lawsuit,” according to court papers.

Ripston will retire on Feb. 15 after 38 years with the organization, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Reinhardt quickly denied the motion, How Appealing reports. “I will be able to rule impartially on this appeal, and I will do so,” Reinhardt wrote in his order (PDF) issued Thursday. He promised to explain the reasons in an upcoming memorandum.

Also on the panel are Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, and Judge N. Randy Smith, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

A federal judge in San Francisco struck down the gay marriage ban in August, saying it violated the due process and equal protection clauses.

Updated at 10 a.m. to report that the disqualification motion was denied.

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