Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 49, Issue 4 (2013)
I n 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) updated the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (the “Code”) to include the term “domestic partner,” which it defined as “a person with whom another person maintains a household and an intimate relationship, other than a person to whom he or she is legally married.”1 The ABA asserted the importance of adding “domestic partner” to the Code was that “commonplace ‘nontraditional’ relationships that exist outside marriage are deserving of treatment equal to that afforded marital relationships in evaluating their potential conflict-of-interest implications.”2 This update recognized “the fact that it is desirable to have a uniform system of ethical principles that applies to all individuals serving a judicial function.”3
Many states have amended their Codes of Judicial Conduct (CJCs) to include the term “domestic partner.” But the term “domestic partner” is often associated with same-sex relationships and is, for certain purposes, defined to exclude other types of relationships. This paper will argue that some of the states that have chosen not to include the term “domestic partner” in their CJC likely did so as a result of this term’s association with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy. States that have a history of resisting the advancement of LGBT equality have consistently chosen not to include the term “domestic partner” in their CJC, perhaps to avoid the appearance of support for LGBT equality. The exclusion of the term “domestic partner” in these states’ CJCs reflects a partisan stance and is based on an incomplete understanding of the benefits gained by including the term in a CJC. This paper will also acknowledge and discuss why some states chose not to include the term “domestic partner” in their CJCs, despite a history of support for LGBT equality. Further, this paper will argue that the ABA’s introduction of the term “domestic partner” in the 2007 Code is an intelligent and effective promotion of judicial integrity, which should be adopted by all states, notwithstanding their stance on LGBT issues.