Out But Not An Issue: Judge In Prop 8 Trial Is Gay

Prop 8 Reenactment

It was apparently the most open secret of the Prop 8 trial in San Francisco.

The presiding judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is gay.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate has the full report, and the article cites many sources who say they do not expect his sexual orientation to influence his opinion. 

Walker was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1989 and has never “taken paints to disguise — or advertise — his orientation,” the article said.

The judge in this landmark gay rights litigation being gay is quite ironic, but it isn’t the first eye-brow raising trial Walker has been involved in.

He came under heavy criticism from the gay community for representing, when he was in private practice, the U.S. Olympic Committee in its successful lawsuit that sought to prevent the Gay Olympics from infringing on the USOC name.

“Life is full of irony,” Walker told the SFGate when they reminded him of that suit. Walker is not publicly commenting on the Prop 8 trial while it’s pending.

Some will undoubtedly make noise about potential bias because the judge is gay. But, two things.

Judges bring to the bench all sorts of life experiences that could potentially cause them to be “biased” on any number of issues. But they are judges, and their job is to decide on the law. It’s refreshing that no one with any knowledge seems to be saying they expect Walker to do anything less. (As we’ve mentioned before, 5-4 decisions along political lines are a little frustrating.)

And second, we doubt anyone who would dare conclude he might make a certain decision because he is gay would have had the same concerns if he were straight. Would we assume he could not make a fair decision about Prop 8 and gay marriage because he was heterosexual? Doubt it.

We think a quote in the article from a judge who did not wish to be named, but who counts himself as a friend of Walker’s, sums it up nicely:

SFGate: [The fellow judge] said he had spoken with Walker and was concerned that “people will come to the conclusion that (Walker) wants to conceal his sexuality.”

“He has a private life and he doesn’t conceal it, but doesn’t think it is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn’t bring it to bear in any decisions,” said the judge, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the Prop. 8 trial.

“Is it newsworthy?” he said of Walker’s orientation, and laughed. “Yes.”

(The picture is not of the actual judge, but of an actor playing him in the Prop 8 reenactments available on YouTube.)

Thanks to Barbara Raab (@bbabbo) for pointing out the article, via Twitter. 

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