Skip to content

Calif. marriage amendment defenders file motion to throw out district court ruling

Motion says new information shows judge should have stepped out of case

SAN FRANCISCO — The legal team, which is defending the California marriage amendment in federal court, filed a motion Monday to throw out the district court decision that struck down the amendment. The motion argues that now-retired Chief District Judge Vaughn R. Walker violated federal law by not recusing himself from the Perry v. Brown case.

The legal team, including Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, explain that recent media reports show that Walker should have disqualified himself because an objective observer might reasonably have questioned his impartiality due to his 10-year-long same-sex relationship, his failure to disclose that relationship at the outset of the case, his failure to disclose whether he has any interest in marrying his same-sex partner, and his unprecedented and irregular actions throughout the lawsuit.

“The American people have a right to a fair judicial process, free from even the appearance of bias or prejudice,” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for and one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “Judge Walker’s 10-year-long same-sex relationship creates the unavoidable impression that he was not the impartial judge the law requires. He was obligated to either recuse himself or provide full disclosure of this relationship at the outset of the case. These circumstances demand setting aside his decision.”

The motion explains that federal law requires “that a judge recuse himself whenever he has an ‘interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding…,’ or more generally, in any other circumstance in which ‘his impartiality might reasonably be questioned….’” Both of those requirements prohibited the judge from deciding the case, the motion argues.

The motion also makes clear that it “is grounded in the fundamental principle…that no judge ‘is permitted to try cases where he has an interest in the outcome….’ Surely, no one would suggest that Chief Judge Walker could issue an injunction directing a state official to issue a marriage license to him. Yet on this record, it must be presumed that that is precisely what has occurred.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Pugno (POON’-yo)


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.