Prop 8 supporters still want judge disqualified

Lawyers file brief claiming Vaughn Walker’s ruling striking down gay marriage ban should be invalidated because he is gay and in a relationship with a man

Walker.Vaughn

JUDGING THE JUDGE | In this July 8, 2009 file photo, Judge Vaughn Walker is seen in his chambers at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, Calif. Lawyers for the sponsors of California’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban have filed briefs with the appeals court asking that Walker’s ruling striking down Prop 8 be invalidated because he is gay. (San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Chinn/Associated Press)

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

SAN FRANCISCO — The sponsors of California’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban have asked a federal court to invalidate the ruling of the federal judge who struck it down, saying the judge should be disqualified because he did not divulge he was in a long-term relationship with another man.

Lawyers for the Proposition 8’s backers filed their open brief on the issue late Monday, Oct. 3, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. They claim that another federal judge erred when he concluded U.S. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s relationship status was irrelevant to Walker’s ability to fairly preside over the trial on the measure’s constitutionality.

In their brief, they argue that Walker’s impartiality can be questioned because he is “similarly situated” to the plaintiffs who sued to overturn Proposition 8, two same-sex couples in established relationships. They also said that while Walker has not indicated if he and his partner wish to marry, research presented as evidence in the trial found that two-thirds of unmarried same-sex couples would tie the knot if they could.

“Given that Judge Walker was in a long-term, same-sex relationship throughout this case (and
for many years before the case commenced), he was, in Plaintiffs’ own words, ‘similarly situated to (Plaintiffs) for purposes of marriage,’” the lawyers wrote. “And it is entirely possible — indeed, it is quite likely, according to Plaintiffs themselves — that Judge Walker had an interest in marrying his partner and therefore stood in precisely the same shoes as the Plaintiffs before him.”

Walker’s successor, Chief Judge James Ware, rejected similar arguments in late August, after the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified Proposition 8 for the November 2008 ballot made the first attempt in the nation to disqualify a sitting judge based on sexual orientation.

Ware said the presumption that Walker could not be unbiased was “as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief.”

In an apparent response, the coalition’s attorneys wrote that they were not suggesting that gay or lesbian judges could never preside over cases involving gay rights questions.

“We know of no reason to believe, for example, that Judge Walker would have any personal interest in the outcome of litigation over, say, the constitutionality of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” they said. “Nor would there be any issue with a gay or lesbian judge hearing this case so long as a reasonable person, knowing all of the relevant facts and circumstances, would not have reason to believe that the judge has a current personal interest in marrying.”

The 9th Circuit already is reviewing whether Walker properly concluded the ban violates the rights of gay Californians and if Proposition 8’s sponsors were eligible to appeal his ruling once the state’s attorney general and governor declined to challenge it. A decision could come down at any time.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

REVIEW: Q Cinema selection ‘We Were Here’

Getting its Southwest premiere at this year’s Q Cinema film fest, We Were Here documents the recent history gay San Francisco and the impact of “the gay plague” HIV/AIDS had on the community. David Weissman compiled a group of men and women recounting their stories of SF in the ’70s. It’s hard to believe this is the first documentary that takes such a look at this chapter of both the city and the LGBT community.

In a way, the film could be a sequel to his 2001 doc The Cockettes, which focused on the hippie gay culture burgeoning in 1960s San Fran. Now we’re seeing how the ’70s played out and the tragic fate that awaits. Without a lot of fanfare, Weissman points the camera at five old-school SF denizens and lets them tell their stories in timeline fashion. The interviews are spliced in with archival footage and photos of the survivors and their friends along with fascinating, rich images of gay history, as well as some of the darker moments. Public figures at the time railing against the community and AIDS still rile up anger.

Weissman handles each component of the interviews and the footage with the gentleness of laying out the fine china for the perfect place setting. The stories are tragic enough that Weissman lets them unfurl rather than piecing together an unnecessary, sensationalistic dramatic arc. If anything, though, the film actually echoes another documentary. Almost the same timeline structure can be seen in the compelling KERA documentary Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay & Lesbian Community.

Regardless, these are stories that need to be told and passed on. We Were Here may be a hard watch for those who were around at that time. It will likely bring up tough memories, but that’s not the overall message here. The strength and humor that lie within each of these survivors is also a testament to the resilience of the gay community, which is tested even to this day. Weissman didn’t create just a documentary in Here, he instead fashioned an heirloom that belongs in the entirety of LGBT history.

90 min. 3.5 stars.

Rose Marine Theater, 1140 N. Main St. June 5 at noon. $10. QCinema.org.

—  Rich Lopez

NC man ‘turns straight,’ murders gay roommate with ax and shotgun, blames Mucinex

Michael Anderson: “Mucinex made me do it.”

STEPHEN V. SPRINKLE  |  Unfinished Lives

In one of the grisliest murders the local Catawba County Sheriff’s Department can recall, a teen roommate used the gay panic defense to justify his alleged ax-and-shotgun murder of an older gay man.

Michael Anderson, 19, of nearby King’s Mountain, is accused of murdering 38-year-old Stephen Starr at about 4:45 a.m. on Monday in the Hickory house they shared.

The Hickory Daily Record reports that Anderson, claiming he “turned straight” during alleged sexual advances by Starr, shot him with a shotgun and pistol, carved words into his body and wrote some others with a pen, before lodging an ax in the victim’s stomach.

“He shot his roommate and took an ax to him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told the Daily Record. “It’s one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.”

—  admin

TRAVEL: San Francisco is Queertopia

The City by the Bay is a must visit for all gay Texans — World Series titles notwithstanding

NICK VIVION  | Special Contributor
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

San Francisco is regularly recognized as one of the world’s most visited cities, and equally as often is dubbed the most European city in America. The Bay Area boasts a live-and-let-live ethos that has attracted a population with equal parts creativity and quirk (it’s the fictional homes of Marvel’s X-Men and Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets).

It’s also just about the gayest city in the world, a veritable Capital of the Queers — some estimates put 30 percent of the population as LGBT-identified. And despite their baseball team trouncing the Rangers in last year’s World Series, it’s still a desirable travel destination for gay Texans.

The city has welcomed the weary, the weird and the wacky for more than a century. The first wave was during the Gold Rush of the 1800s. The prospectors had no prospects — and no women. So they made do, and are said to be the ones who invented the Hanky Code to organize their newfound homo desires.

Post-World War II, soldiers of both sexes began to carve a niche for themselves amidst the already-thriving gay scene. A spread in Life magazine in 1964 maliciously declared San Francisco the gay capital of the nation, but while the tone was accusatory, it had one unintended effect: Publicity.

OPEN UP THAT GOLDEN GATE | The famed bridge, opposite page, is the best-known image of San Francisco, but for gay travelers the Castro District is a must-see destination.

“Thousands of gay people poured into California now that they knew where to go,” says Kathy Amendola, owner of Cruisin’ the Castro, about the meteoric rise of gay San Francisco in the 1960s. “In 1967, the Summer of Love exploded in the Haight. There were so many tens of thousands of people in one place at one time on such a high level of consciousness [from LSD] that it shifted energy. San Francisco could not stop people from pouring in, from the gays to the hippies. It was supposed to be the utopia: free drugs, free food and free love. Who wouldn’t come here?”

But San Francisco is more than just a cliché of drugged-out hippies and handkerchiefed homos cruising the streets. It has an energy that you can savor, a magical serenity that makes molecules vibrate more vigorously. It’s exhilarating. San Francisco is freedom from judgment, a place where people are living their lives mindfully, yet without much regard to what people think.

“We recycle 77 percent of our garbage and food. We still have that sense of utopia,” says Amendola without the slightest hint of new-age pretense. She, like most San Franciscans, is serious about her community’s shared values.

Harvey Milk was known as the “Mayor of the Castro,” and is widely credited with bringing the gays to the district. He saw the Castro’s cheaper rent and better climate when he was living over the hill in Haight-Ashbury, and jumped at the chance to open a camera store right on Castro Street.

Today, the camera store sits empty awaiting the embattled move of the HRC Store. In its window is an image of a group of people outside the Castro Theatre waving a flag that says “Gay Revolution.” Above, from the second floor where Milk used to live, is a mural of Harvey looking down on the street. On his chest is painted one of his most potent phrases: “You gotta give ‘em hope.”

Visiting the Castro is a must for every gay visitor. It’s unlike any other remaining gayborhood in contemporary society — our Mecca, and not just because there are a lot of gay people there; it also breathes history.

Milk first spoke out at the corner of Market and Castro right underneath where the Pride flag now billows. Murals abound depicting the decimation of the AIDS crisis, and how the city’s gay population rallied, protested and fought incessantly to stem the tide of deaths.

The recent opening of the GLBT Historical Museum on 18th Street is a much-needed fulcrum of our collective queer identity. The handsome museum facilitates an understanding of our history as a group, and shows those younger folks like myself the oft-unbelievable realities of gay life in decades pat.

As I stood in front of the picture of Leonard Matlovich on the cover of Time in September 1978, I nearly cried. I had never heard of him, nor had I ever noticed the large plaque commemorating him on the corner of 18th and Castro. He was discharged from the military for being gay, saying: “When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

My visit to the museum was the day before DADT was repealed; I had no idea we had been fighting for this long.
The queer experience is central to the San Francisco experience, as it is the city’s acceptance — not just tolerance — of queer people of all kinds that really makes it unique. This is not the “diversity” of New York, rather a whole-hearted commitment to queering the world.

Standing outside Hotel Abri near Union Square, hearing the buzz of four languages, it strikes me that there are so many microcosms in this city, neighborhoods so distinct they could be in separate cities or states. San Francisco, at its geographical core, is queer.

San Francisco gets under your skin, into your blood and hooks you for life. It will electrify you, and like your first true love, you will never be able to shake it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Gay playwright wins grant

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, the gay, San Francisco-based playwright who has two shows produced in Dallas earlier this year — Second Thought’s Hunters and Gatherers and Kitchen Dog’s Boom! — has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the National New Play Network (of which Kitchen Dog is a longtime member), which seeks to encourage playwrights and get their work out there. It’s overall a pretty hoity-toity thing to win.

I interviewed Nachtrieb, and he’s a hoot — a funny guy, and smart — and Kitchen Dog does some pretty out-there shit. So it might be cool if his next play written with the grant turns up in Dallas.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones