Prop. 8 Judge Married to ACLU Leader Refuses to Disqualify Himself

If there's one group that so-called “family values” social conservatives love to hate more than gays, it's the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU. So there's more than a little bit of karma in the fact that Stephen Reinhardt, the judge expected to rule whether Prop. 8, which would deny gay couples the right to marry, is constitutional or not, is married to Ramona Ripston, director of ACLU of Southern California.

Supporters of the anti-gay marriage ballot proposition, which won at the polls in 2008, want Reinhardt to take himself off the case because of his wife's job, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But Reinhardt won't step down, the paper reports, because the ACLU isn't a party to the case. (Reinhardt has repeatedly disqualified himself from hearing past cases where the ACLU actually was involved).

However, some legal scholars are questioning Reinhardt's ruling, because the ACLU did ask a federal judge to rule the ballot proposal unconstitutional last year.

Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, told the newspaper that she found Reinhardt's ruling questionable. “When you have a judge's spouse who has directly participated in a proceeding connected to the case….there's a reason why the public could legitimately have concerns,” she said. “You don't want to muzzle the spouses of judges, but you also don't want to compromise public confidence in the legitimacy of a decision.”

Despite the controversy, the Chronicle added, Prop. 8 backers have already accepted Reinhardt's ruling. Perhaps the hope to use his questionable–albeit non-gay–marriage status against him when they appeal his ruling before the Supreme Court. That's an outcome that is all but guaranteed if, in that great heterosexual tradition, Reinhardt does exactly what his wife tells him to do and bans the ban on gay marriage.

Stay tuned, marriage fans!

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