On Wednesday, Vaughn Walker, chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, issued a landmark ruling declaring the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional and without any “rational basis.” His opinion was widely praised by legal scholars, with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick writing that “nobody can fairly accuse Judge Walker of putting together an insubstantial or unsubstantiated opinion today.”
The right wing is trying nevertheless, as they have in other states where judges ruled that denying same-sex couples marriage rights is unconstitutional. They have called for impeaching the judges, launched political campaigns to oust them, and perhaps most disturbingly, perpetrated nasty whisper campaigns about their personal lives:
– Impeachment: The right wing is already calling for the impeachment of Walker, whose main crime seems to be issuing a decision with which it disagrees. The American Family Association (AFA) sent out one of its many action alerts yesterday, saying that Walker “frustrated the express will of seven million Californians.” Margaret Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, said that after her decision legalizing marriage equality, opponents “hired a small plane to fly for weeks over Boston” — including over her apartment building — trailing a banner reading, “Impeach Margaret Marshall.”
– Political Campaigns: Last year, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that marriage equality is legal. Scholars said that while the decision was “politically divisive,” it was “legally sound.” Critics, however, have launched Common Sense PAC, an effort to vote three of the justices who are up for a “retention vote” in November out of office. Common Sense PAC has “spent $2,272, and had $1,392 on hand as of July 15,” and it is erecting black plywood signs that are “designed to look like a ballot, with red check marks in the “No” column for each justice.”
– Personal Attacks: The right wing is currently engaged in a vicious smear campaign to dismiss Walker’s opinion by arguing that he is gay. AFA wrote its supporters that Walker is an “open homosexual, and should have recused himself from this case due to his obvious conflict of interest.” MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan said Walker must be gay because it was “unnatural” for an “older white guy” to support marriage equality. The right wing similarly went after Marshall in 2004, saying that she allegedly “colluded with homosexuals.”
These attacks are nothing more than sour grapes and grasping for straws. As NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates has pointed out, conservatives had no problems with Walker’s sexuality when it was first announced that he would be the judge. Supporters of Prop. 8 “did not ask that he be recused from it. They didn’t think that he’d have a conflict in overseeing it,” she said. President George H.W. Bush also nominated Walker, who was opposed by many Democrats for being perceived as anti-gay.