April 28, 2011

Justice Walker: what's all the fuss about?

I love the fact that humans have a judicial system; seriously, it gives me hope for our future that at some point we decided to set a standard for ourselves as a whole which is higher than a large number of us as individuals can achieve. And I’ve always wondered about the moment when we came to this dual realization; that we were capable of these higher standards only if they were imposed by a higher power and that higher power wasn't some God. I’ve always thought it must have been a moment of great clarity and honesty. It seemed to me a sign that we are spearheading our own evolution - into a world where stupidity and stupidity alone was the enemy. 
Which is why all forms of discrimination disgust me and the people who practice the same only serve to remind me that we have not evolved as much as I might like to think. That in some ways, our society’s growth may be rotten in its very core ideas.
But in 2008, the Californian Supreme Court did a beautiful thing; they passed an order that stated that the right to marriage between consenting adults was a constitutional right and could not be hindered on the basis of the couples’ genders. In other words, they made legal something that any couple knows - marriage has nothing to do with sex! 
In doing so, these justices struck down two California Acts; one of them being Proposition 22 (introduced in the year 2000, would I be wrong to assume by an ex-Military man to spite his gay son?) by remarking that race, gender, sexual orientation were all constitutionally suspect basis to impose different standards on people. 
To say that this decision by a State Supreme court had far reaching consequences is to belittle the giant set of balls it took for these judges to author the order; this was a legal first for the civil rights of homosexuals to the same extent ( if not more so,) that Loving v Virginia was for African-Americans (the case overturned the state's marriage ban on mixed race couples). Soon after they got various other State Supreme Courts to grow a set as well and lo and behold! something good was achieved. 
Not for long though, nothing good can ever be allowed to last in an election year can it? Nope, state elections especially are for stirring shit, so come November of the same year, Californians are rushing to pass Proposition 8 - a ban on gay marriages. So much was the hurry, that they basically proposed a re-instatement of the archaic law that had only just been struck down by the judicial system. Just right here one would like to ask- why should I have any faith in the American judicial system when the people are so stupid - or is that racism?
But then in the spirit of the enterprising country that it is, they gave me another reason to believe. 2 gay individuals sued for their right to marry and the same was upheld by a Chief Justice Walker. The decision I remember came out August 4, 2 days before my birthday and really I thought it was a sign from God, letting me know that there were still sane and intelligence-loving individuals left in that stupid country that they like to call Gods’ own. 
Now the trial was widely publicized (not in the least because the defending party was the Terminator himself) and almost every legal blog on constitutional rights was abuzz with details of the case. More so, Americans like their gossip right? They like to know what you wear to bed and what cereal gets your particular set of bowels moving, so not surprisingly even I, who had no idea who Justice Walker was before this trial, came to hear that he was in fact gay. The story ran in almost every newspaper in the world in some form or the other. Justice Walker never admitted it but he never denied it either. 
The poor guy, I remember thinking lasted all these years in the profession without being ousted and then I remember thinking - well if he’s gay, he does have a slight vested interest in the case. And frankly I then thought, ‘well at least he’s got the right bias!’ [thus proving that I myself am not as evolved as I’d like to think but if Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy can try his cases then who are we kidding about recusal of judges in America?]. 
Of course then I took this idea to its logical end and realised that by this logic, a Catholic or a Mormon judge could never rule on the matter, nor could a straight married man (and how many unmarried straight male justices are there in the Supreme Court?) and so perhaps even the female judges. Take it a step further and an African American judge cannot try homicide cases (sorry for the generalisation guys, statistics are statistics) and women should never hear cases about abortion. So I realised that my idea was a moment of stupidity that really couldn’t hold water. 
In fact there are actually arguments to be made for including a minority member in the bench when a minority party’s rights are being heard. Studies of the US courts themselves can be quoted saying in panels which contain at least one female judge, the male judges were 15% more likely to rule in favor of a sex discrimination plaintiff than on panels that contain only men. Being watched makes us fairer; this is not only the truth but the very truth that the judicial system is based on. 
All this of course, assuming Justice Walker wanted to be married, it could backfire if he was a commitment phobe; Jay Leno was quick to point that out. Yes, it was even on Leno but the opposition - who apparently hear the voice of God telling them everything else - did not hear this news. If they did, they certainly did not bring it up in court. Perhaps because they too realised the countless arguments against it, perhaps they were too embarrassed with the ridiculous arguments they were already putting forth in court- the ones they fought tooth and nail to make sure we did not see. Perhaps they knew that just like race and gender, a judge’s sexual orientation was not a valid ground for recusal or perhaps, they simply did not have the balls it takes to ask a judge head-on to clarify his sexual orientation.
For whatever reason they didn't bring it up, they cannot now say that they did not know about Judge Walker's sexuality during trial and as is obvious from the State’s declination of appeal that there exist no other valid grounds for appeal, so what has changed? That Justice Walker has come out in public (after his retirement I might add) and announced that he has a homosexual partner of 10 years? Would it have made a difference if Justice Walker had revealed sooner that he was in a relationship? Me, personally I think he should have revealed it; not because its appropriate (in fact it is the most inappropriate measure of a judge and I feel compelled to apologise to the man for my opinion) but because it would have revealed the hypocrisy of the opponents in one fell swoop. What exactly is the argument here - that a straight married man  would have definitely ruled different? 
Apart from negating Leno’s contention that he may in fact be a commitment phobe, that changes nothing. The rules are clear, if you didn’t bring it up in trial, you cannot use it on appeal; so take that you homophobic, unhappily married assholes who filed the amicus brief [pardon my french] - for once the system works as it should. Perhaps Project Marriage and the other private parties who are appealing Justice Walker’s decision should be more worried about the issue of locus standi - after all, where do they get off challenging another party’s right to marriage? how does it effect them in the least?! Or perhaps they are aware that this question will be their undoing and that is what all this hulabaloo is really about.  
Having said that and in the interests of not jinxing the proceedings: I’m knocking on wood.

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