Judge refuses to withdraw from same-sex marriage case


A federal appeals court judge who had been asked to disqualify himself from hearing the case involving California’s same-sex marriage ban declined to withdraw Thursday, saying he could rule impartially.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt was asked by supporters of Proposition 8 to recuse himself from the panel that Monday will hear an appeal of a decision that the voter initiative defining marriage as between a man and a woman violates the Constitution.

Reinhardt is married to Ramona Ripston, longtime head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The ACLU has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the same-sex marriage case, urging the appeals court to uphold U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s Aug. 4 ruling quashing Proposition 8.


In a two-page order filed with the appeals court, Reinhardt pointed out that he has disqualified himself in the past “when doing so was warranted by the circumstances” and cited numerous cases in which he withdrew because of a conflict of interest or the appearance of one.

“I will be able to rule impartially on this appeal, and I will do so,” the 79-year-old judge wrote in denying the recusal motion.

Reinhardt, named to the court by President Carter in 1980, was one of the three judges randomly selected from among the court’s 47 active and senior judges to hear the appeal of Walker’s ruling. The other two judges, drawn by computer according to an elaborate formula weighing case complexity and each judge’s workload, are Michael Daly Hawkins, an appointee of President Clinton, and N. Randy Smith, named to the court by President George W. Bush.