State lawmakers may have had the best of intentions when they approved legislation last year to require that California judges be asked in an annual demographic survey about their sexual orientation. The goal was to assess diversity on the bench. Instead,
the Legislature has inappropriately and ineffectively intruded into the private lives of judges
A good portion of the judiciary seems to think so too. Answering all or any of the survey questions is optional, and 40% of those who responded opted not to answer the question about sexual orientation, according to the recently released survey, which also queried jurists about their race, ethnicity and gender. The Administrative Office of the Courts — the staff agency to the Judicial Council of California — is required by the law to collect the information on all judges and judicial officers in the state. The data are released in the aggregate, arranged by court systems, not by individual jurists; no one is identified. However, in some small jurisdictions, that anonymity may be meaningless. For example, in the Mariposa court, both judges who responded to the survey declined to say whether they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Overall, 672 judges and officers, from the Supreme Court to the trial courts, declined to answer. An additional 1,005 did answer the question. (Nineteen said they were lesbian, 17 said they were gay, and one answered transgender.)
This was an ill-conceived attempt at promoting diversity on the part of the Legislature (emphasis added).