Judge Refuses to Step Aside in Prop 8 Case

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A federal appeals court judge in California has rejected a request to recuse himself from next week's hearing appeal on Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Sponsors of the measure asked Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to disqualify himself because of his wife's leadership role with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Reinhardt's spouse, Ramona Ripston, is an opponent of Proposition 8 and has taken part in legal proceedings to overturn the ballot measure.

Attorneys for the group Protect Marriage argued that the judge's "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

"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," said Deborah Rhode, a Stanford University law professor, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"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," she said.

Nevertheless, Reinhardt refused to step down from the three-judge panel, saying "I will be able to rule impartially in this appeal, and I will do so."

Andrew Pugno, attorney Protect Marriage, said the group "accepts the judge's decision, but stands behind the arguments in its motion."

"Our legal team is focused on the merits of our constitutional defense of Proposition 8. We are confident that Proposition 8 and the institution of marriage will ultimately prevail," Pugno said.

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