Ethics Mess In Kansas: The Lesbians and the Sperm Donor

The parents in happier days

The parents in happier days

Auto mechanic William Marotta must rue the day he responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Angela Bauer and her life partner Jennifer Schreiner. They were seeking a sperm donor, for the obvious reasons, and he had sperm to donate. The trio then signed a contract in which all agreed that Marotta would have no rights to any child his sperm spawned, nor future responsibilities regarding the child’s care. Schreiner was artificially inseminated and conceived, making her the child’s mother, as Bauer stepped into the role of the child’s father. Exit Marotta forever, with thanks.

Or so he thought. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Ethicists, Backing Judge Walker and Gay Marriage, At An Unacceptable Price”

The motion to vacate Judge Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 has been filed, you can read it here. Since the original post, I have detected some cracks in the formerly near-united front of legal ethicists and journalists deriding Walker’s critics. Some of them are finally, grudgingly, admitting that the Judge might not have handled his potential conflict so well after all, and that the motion is not a frivolous, anti-gay outrage as they originally labelled it.  The most rickety of the rationalizations put forth on Walker’s behalf, advanced by some his most respected defenders, is that he had no obligation to reveal his own sexual orientation by disclosing his domestic arrangement because of its intimate and private nature. Yet the judge voluntarily disclosed it after his decision was in the books, raising a rebuttable presumption that his original silence was to avoid suggestions of conflict, not out of a desire for privacy.

First time commenter Jada adds her Comment of the Day to the discussion: Continue reading

The Ethicists, Backing Judge Walker and Gay Marriage, At An Unacceptable Price

"Oh, all right...as long as we like the decision."

Thanks to the Judge Walker controversy, now have proof that the best legal ethicists in the nation are human. I suppose that’s something.

My colleagues in the legal ethics field are arguing—decreeing, really— that Judge Vaughn Walker’s decade-long same-sex relationship didn’t need to be disclosed before he ruled against Proposition 8 (California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban) because, they say, it created no reasonable doubts about his impartiality. Coincidentally, they also really, really like his decision. But then, so do I. Continue reading

Judge Walker Was Wrong

Now that we know about Bert, should Judge Ernie have recused himself?

Judge Vaughn Walker, the Federal District judge who a year ago ruled California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, unconstitutional, was wrong. No, not about the law, which is pretty clearly unconstitutional: his opinion was fair and well-reasoned, and is likely to be upheld on appeal. Walker was ethically wrong in his handling of the delicate issue of his own sexuality, which had raised a controversy about his objectivity and ability to be impartial.

Two weeks ago, following his retirement from the bench, Walker publicly disclosed for the first time that he has been in a same-sex relationship for the past ten years. This changes the analysis regarding the propriety of his ruling on Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Walker had long been rumored to be gay; supposedly “everybody” knew he was gay. My position, as well as that of many others considering the arguments of anti-gay marriage opponents that he should recuse himself, was that sexual orientation could not and should not create a presumption of bias, any more than gender, age, race or marital status. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Judge Vaughn Walker

His opinion declaring the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in California unconstitutional is here.

The opinion really begins on page 110. Opponents of the opinion are calling it “judicial activism,” “overturning the will of the people,” and “ruling by fiat.” Don’t buy it. The judge logically, fairly and appropriately explains why withholding the basic right of marriage from same-sex couples is a violation of essential values and American principles of ethics and law. Forget about the pundits and the spin: read what Judge Walker wrote.