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Truthdigger of the Week: 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt

Just in time for a certain prefabricated, romance-related holiday that shall remain nameless, we offer you a little valentine (oops!) of our own with a Truthdigger winner who truly brought the love in one inspiring gesture he made in a federal appeals court, of all places.

Yes, we’re talking about 9th Circuit Justice Stephen Reinhardt, whom our own Bill Boyarsky saluted eloquently in his column on this site on Thursday. Bill put it far better than we can, and we’ll jump over to his tribute at the end of this exercise, but first, a little back story on Reinhardt and the reason why he was this week’s clear choice. Known for his left-leaning politics, it wasn’t too surprising that Reinhardt was the judge who put a fine point on his court’s 2-1 ruling on Tuesday that California’s notorious Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal in the Golden State as of Election Day 2008, was unconstitutional. Here’s a brief passage from his written opinion that lays out the issue in no uncertain terms.

United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit:

“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships. Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

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Reinhardt, who was appointed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in 1980 by Jimmy Carter, rose to the occasion and infused his opinion with some personal touches, making for an entertaining as well as informative read. Here’s Boyarsky on that note:

Bill Boyarsky in Truthdig:

He said that “ ‘marriage’ is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not.

“We need consider only the many ways in which we encounter the word ‘marriage’ in our daily lives and understand it, consciously or not to convey a sense of significance. … We are excited to see someone ask, ‘Will you marry me?’ whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see ‘Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?’…”

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Reinhardt’s writing memorably articulated the feelings anti-Prop.-8 activists had harbored for over three years, giving them voice in the judicial context, which happens to count quite a bit in this moment of the national struggle for same-sex marriage. Hopefully, the strength of Reinhardt’s argument will be met with the consideration it merits in the Supreme Court, should the issue continue along the path to the country’s top court — although, as some not-so-liberal news sources point out here and here, SCOTUS hasn’t always been super-supportive of his views and opinions. Whether or not he’s the “liberal badboy of the federal judiciary” (which sounds like a compliment, even from the likes of The Weekly Standard), from where we sit, he looks a lot like a Truthdigger of the Week.

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