Commentary: Goodbye to Bad Recall

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 22, 2005

Opponents of gay marriage had targeted Judge Loren McMaster because he upheld California's domestic partners law. In his opinion, Judge McMaster pointed out that Proposition 22, the California law outlawing same sex marriage, did not ban civil unions.

A domestic partners registry was already on the books when Prop. 22 was drafted. 22 did not seek to repeal it, nor did it repeal the law giving domestic partners hospital visitation rights on the same terms as married couples. And because the state's domestic partners law stated explicitly that California would not recognize same sex marriage, McMaster ruled reasonably that it did not violate Prop. 22.

A three judge appeals court unanimously concurred. The Supreme Court refused to review the case, and at that point, recall leaders abandoned the effort to remove Judge McMaster. Good.

Judges are not above criticism; but recall should be rare, reserved for unethical conduct or gross incompetence. None of that was at issue here. The failure of this recall was a win not just for judges, but for the public. If judges abandon the rule of law in favor of what is popular or politically expedient, we are all in trouble.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.