Judge Vaughn R. Walker. Photo: Wikipedia

The Chronicle’s Matier & Ross were the first to break the news, such as it was, that the judge who eventually deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional was himself gay.


Here’s what they wrote on Feb 7, 2010:

The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay.

Many gay politicians in San Francisco and lawyers who have had dealings with Walker say the 65-year-old jurist, appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, has never taken pains to disguise – or advertise – his orientation.

Walker himself never spoke about his sexual orientation until yesterday, when the now-retired judge confirmed that fact during a meeting with some reporters. I could find only two original reports from the confab, one from the Chron and one from Reuters.

From Reuters:

The U.S. judge who struck down California’s gay marriage ban never considered his own homosexuality as a reason to recuse himself from the case, he said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who retired from the bench at the end of February, said it would not be appropriate for any judge’s sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin or gender to stop them from presiding over a case.

“That’s a very slippery slope,” Walker said…

It was (the) first time Walker publicly acknowledged his own sexual orientation. Walker said he has been in a relationship with the man for 10 years. “He is a physician,” Walker said.

And from the Chronicle:

The Chronicle first disclosed Walker’s sexual orientation during the trial, a fact he had neither discussed publicly nor tried to conceal. He said Wednesday he’d been surprised that it hadn’t surfaced earlier and had surmised that “every journalist had decided it was not news.”

The disclosure prompted some opponents of same-sex marriage to accuse Walker of bias and demand that he disqualify himself. Walker noted Wednesday that no parties in the case, including Prop. 8’s sponsors, ever made such a request, and said, “I never thought it was appropriate to recuse from that case.”

Here’s a really interesting audio clip from Chronicle columnist Phil Matier on KCBS, discussing the decision the paper faced on whether to report Walker’s homosexuality.

Update 4:40 p.m. Here’s a 2010 post by Scott Shafer on our Proposition 8 blog about the enmity that Judge Walker earned from the gay community in 1982 when he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a lawsuit against what was then known as The Gay Olympics, forcing the organization to change its name to the Gay Games.

And here are the comments we received on the Prop 8 blog in response to the question: “Does Judge Walker’s Sexual Orientation Matter?”

Judge Vaughn R. Walker, Who Ruled Against Proposition 8, Confirms He’s Gay 12 March,2013Jon Brooks

  • L

    In all fairness, to the issues of Prop 8 and how closely emotionally , socially, and personally,they are tied to the Judge, Judge Walker should have excused himself from this case and ruling. Even when we select jurors, they are excused if they have any sort of possible connection, inclination, or bias to the case. Why do not the same logic and rules preside. When there is a possible conflict of interest and integrity, integrity should always take precedence.

  • Nicole

    Walker did the right thing by not recusing himself. Seems he remained bias by not allowing himself the opportunity to get married to the man he had maintained a relationship with over ten years. He had the means to pass it before even hearing it & he didn’t.!

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