U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who last August declared California’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional, acknowledged to a small group of reporters Wednesday, April 6, that he is gay.
The news appears to have first broken with Reuters News Service on Wednesday afternoon, though the article carried very few details. The report said only that Walker gave a talk to a “handful of reporters” but didn’t say where or why. It did not indicate whether anyone asked Walker whether he was gay but said that he acknowledged having been in a relationship with a physician for 10 years. And it reported that Walker said he did not believe it would be appropriate for any judge to recuse himself from a case because of his sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin or gender.
A later report by Reuters indicated the “talk” took place “at a table” and that Walker wore a “charcoal suit with a white handkerchief.”
Reuters reporter Dan Levine’s report said Walker recalled having been “vilified” by the gay community when he was first nominated to the bench, by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Walker was known to the gay community then as an attorney for the U.S. Olympic Committee in a case in which the group fought to prevent the organizers of the Gay Games from using the word Olympic. Walker’s role involved putting a lien on Games organizer Tom Waddell’s home, as he was dying from AIDS. Levine said Walker explained that he was just trying to be a successful advocate for his client.
“I was the ogre of the gay community when I was nominated, and a hero when I leave,” Walker said, according to Reuters.
Walker was Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, in San Francisco, until February of this year, when he retired.
One of Walker’s last cases was Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now known as Perry v. Brown), a three-week-long trial challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, an initiative that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
A column in the San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report that Walker was gay, but that report, which ran shortly after the trial was concluded in January 2010, identified no sources to substantiate its report and acknowledged that Walker refused to confirm or deny what his sexual orientation was.
A number of media outlets reported the news, and one citizen filed a letter with the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, saying he thought Walker should have recused himself.