California | Gay Marriage | News | Proposition 8 | Vaughn Walker

Prop 8 Trial Judge is Gay, and Media is Finally Talking About It

The SF Chronicle today brings up an aspect of the Prop 8 trial that media didn't touch while the trial was underway — the fact that Judge Vaughn Walker is gay.

National Center for Lesbian Rights head Kate Kendell thinks the judge's sexuality will likely be brought up by Prop 8 supporters should they lose the case, a notion that general counsel for the Prop 8 side Andrew Pugno denies:

"We are not going to say anything about that."

Considering the Prop 8 case was assigned to Walker at random, and Walker has ruled against gays in cases past, objections to the ruling because of the judge's sexuality seem unlikely to get very far.

The Chronicle:Walker

Walker has declined to talk about anything involving the Prop. 8 case outside court, and he wouldn't comment to us when we asked about his orientation and whether it was relevant to the lawsuit.

Many San Francisco gays still hold Walker in contempt for a case he took when he was a private attorney, when he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a successful bid to keep San Francisco's Gay Olympics from infringing on its name.

"Life is full of irony," the judge replied when we reminded him about that episode.

And did he have any concerns about being characterized as gay?

"No comment."

Shortly after our conversation, we heard from a federal judge who counts himself as a friend and confidant of Walker's. He 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."

He said it was hard to ignore the irony that "in the beginning, when (Walker) sought to be a judge, a major obstacle he had to overcome was the perception that he was anti-gay."

Judge being gay a nonissue during Prop. 8 trial [sf chronicle]

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. you know, somehow I didn't know and it hadn't occurred to me...

    the gay-Olympics thing still stings... how can we have "special Olympics" but gay is not okay? I suppose it's b/c ultimately, prejudice IS okay.

    Posted by: stephen | Feb 7, 2010 2:03:25 PM

  2. I can't f-cking believe it! I've been following religiously this trial, reading all the transcripts and everything. And NO ONE, I say again, NO ONE ever mentioned this.

    I just can't believe it.

    Also, I think it's bad news for our side.

    Posted by: Stan | Feb 7, 2010 2:08:07 PM

  3. Stan, don't worry about our side. Walker will issue a ruling, which will be appealed to the 9th Circuit and then to the Supreme Court regardless of how he rules.

    Posted by: Gabriel | Feb 7, 2010 2:12:04 PM

  4. There was nothing "anti-gay" about the ruling regarding the Olympics. That was a trademark dispute, not any kind of denial of human rights. The IOC is still very protectionist about its name and its various symbols.
    In Vancouver where the Olympics will start in one week, everybody from the "Olympia Restaurant" to any local business using the words "Vancouver 2010" are getting a "cease and desist" call from the IOC lawyers, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that they would win in a dispute regarding an international sports competition using its name.
    In was the reasonable judgement to make in that case, while in the case over Prop 8, the anti-gay side has built its arguments (to both voters and now to the judge) on a weak foundation of falsehoods and prejudice.

    Posted by: GregV | Feb 7, 2010 2:23:26 PM

  5. Yep......I agree with the judge; life is full of ironies.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Feb 7, 2010 2:33:09 PM

  6. I have to agree with JackFknTwist - the Gay Olympics case was definitely trademark and had nothing to do with "Gay" in any manner. Just that another organisation was using "Olympics" without permission.


    Re the OT: It's nice to see a judge looking at things as fairly as they possibly can. You never hear about it enough.

    Posted by: Lis | Feb 7, 2010 2:44:23 PM

  7. While the "Gay Olympics" decision wasn't anti-gay, the IOC's decision to enforce its rights was anti-gay. They allow "Special Olympics" as fine, but "gay Olympics" isn't. Fuck them.

    Posted by: Chicago | Feb 7, 2010 2:53:36 PM

  8. We have gay men and woman participating in the Olympics. It isn't just heterosexuals. It's a trade mark issues as well as the fact that we're already participating.

    Posted by: Christian | Feb 7, 2010 4:25:30 PM

  9. I agree with Christian, about the Olympics. Having a "gay Olympics" implies the 'regular' Olympics are for straights only, which is not the case.

    About the marriage trial: how awesome is it that gay people are in the annals of power, making decisions? Now we just need an out gay Supreme Court Justice!

    Posted by: drifterbob | Feb 7, 2010 5:11:58 PM

  10. The role of any judge is to follow the law and not their own personal beliefs as to what the law should be (of course, we've seen that little notion go down the drain in certain SCOTU decisions). To claim one side lost because of judicial bias is a stretch under the best facts supporting such a claim and would fail here It would be self-defeating since Prop H8'rs claim they were motivated only by "protecting traditional marriage; to lash out and say that a sitting US District Court judge was biased because of his sexuality would pretty much prove a nexus between their prejudices and the proposition. I mean, if the law was upheld by a straight judge, could we claim that that jurist's sexuality played a role in the decision?

    Posted by: BobC562 | Feb 7, 2010 6:13:37 PM

  11. @Drifterbob

    It isn't that unusual.

    Justice Michael Kirby served on the High Court of Australia from 1996 to 2009. He was replaced by Justice Virginia Bell, who has not kept her sexual orientation a secret either. So, that has become something of Australia's judicial "gay seat."

    Over in South Africa, Justice Edwin Cameron currently serves on the Constitutional Court. He was appointed to the position in 2008. And incidentally, as an appeals court judge in 2004, he wrote the original ruling declaring South Africa's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The government appealed to the Constitutional Court in 2005 and loss.

    Who knows, maybe lightning will strike twice.

    Posted by: John | Feb 7, 2010 6:30:21 PM

  12. Keep in mind that one of the CA Supreme Court justices - Carol Corrigan - is also gay and she voted AGAINST the rights of same-sex couples in the 2008 decision.

    Privilege knows no identity...just ask Mary Cheney. Anything can happen.

    Posted by: patrick | Feb 7, 2010 8:21:15 PM

  13. @ stan... i feel you, but you know i've been following this its inception as well and i must say there were rumbling that he is gay. i live in nyc, and i heard about it. and, as the column points out, he's never been closeted so i'm not sure he can be outed so to speak.

    if people had a problem with him being gay and thus partial, they should have said something at the onset. the fact they didn't means they knew it'd be seen as bigoted; they decided to wait for the decision to reveal this info and mix it with other stuff to claim he was not impartial. this strategy may work, but we need to get his ruling first.

    also, i'm not sure how much it will matter since this is going to the ninth circuit court of appeals for sure, and even maybe to the supreme court.

    Posted by: daftpunkydavid | Feb 7, 2010 9:18:11 PM

  14. Walker's never been an "open" homo. He's a libertarian and a far more conservative than other 9th circuit judges--his sexuality has often been speculative to others in the court (my sister was an intern for another 9th circuit judge who had his own questions about Walker), but the idea of Vaughn Walker being an open homosexual should a) not affect the decision and b) is a myth. The man lives in a glass closet, but a closet all the same.

    Posted by: Phil | Feb 8, 2010 12:14:59 AM

  15. In the incestuous world of California politics, there are always "rumors" about a judge. Statistically, it is the nation's largest state. But in actuality, the Golden State is run as if it were a small town in the Deep South. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Nobody in San Francisco - or Sacramento and Los Angeles for that matter - could keep a secret if their life depended on it.

    Posted by: John | Feb 8, 2010 1:08:09 AM

  16. Another point about the Gay Olympics ruling, to address the initial complaint about the Special Olympics. The Specials Olympics were created more than 40 years ago by a KENNEDY. Moreover, do you think ANY organization would file a trademark lawsuit against an organization representing mentally disabled children, then or now? Plus, back then the IOC was not nearly as large or litigious as it is today.

    Aside from that, as has been noted, the IOC would sue nearly any organization using Olympics without permission---say, if someone formed the Women's Olympics. The IOC recognized the Special Olympics in 1988 and it's only sports organization authorized by the IOC to use Olympics in its title.

    Finally, Parker handled the Gay Olympics case as a private attorney, representing a client. Lawyers can't pick sides.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 8, 2010 4:39:59 AM

  17. Well there may have been "rumors" about it, but absolutely none in print. I've been reading EVERYTHING I could on the trial for the past month, and if any kind of media (newspapers or blogs)had talked about it, I would have known.

    Actually, I'm more blown away by the fact that EVERYONE kept it a secret. No one pipped a word about it, it's just so freaky. And now SFChron opened their mouth, everybody is running an article about it all like "we all knew it but well, now it's out in the open we can talk about it"...

    In any case "of course it doesn't change anything" blablabla whatev, but that's not the point. There's a difference between reality and public perception. In public perception, OF COURSE it's going to influence his decision.

    Posted by: Stan | Feb 8, 2010 4:54:19 AM

  18. I really had to dwell on this one a bit. I had no idea. Nada. Quite frankly, after a lot of thought, I'm pleased about it. Whatever Walker rules, the case will continue up to the Supreme Court. I think he was just representing a client during the Olympic episode. I like the fact that he's gay and just "blended" in, so to speak. We are everywhere ;)

    Posted by: NancyBoyDrew | Feb 8, 2010 8:04:10 AM

  19. "Blended in"? Oh Prunella! The first time I laid eyes on this dude my 'Dar pinged so loud it woke the cat.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 8, 2010 8:35:09 AM

  20. One wonders how the IOC acquired the Olympics from the Greeks of 2500 years ago, and that the Nazi's came up with the five ringed logo. I should think the term is not trademarkable.

    Posted by: anon | Feb 8, 2010 1:09:32 PM

  21. There is a great award winning 30-minute documentary that just came out about the "Gay Olympics" US Supreme Court case called "Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial" Website: The parallels between that fight, over gays and lesbians rights to use the word "Olympic," and this one about the right to use "marriage" are hard to ignore. Many consider the main reason the Supreme Court took the case was because newly appointed (by Reagan!) 9th Circ. Judge Alex Kozinski, now Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit, wrote a passionate dissent that clearly showed the underlying homophobia behind the USOC's decision to go after the Gay Olympics. Kozinski, who also clerked for Anthony Kennedy (author of Romer & Lawrence) when Kennedy was on the 9th Circuit, is also the judge who was working with Walker to broadcast the Prop 8 trial. It is indeed a small world.

    Posted by: JakeSF | Feb 8, 2010 1:44:05 PM

  22. That took no time at all. A friend of mine got forwarded the latest campaign email from NOM:

    Got Bias? San Francisco Chronicle Reports Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker is Gay
    Monday, February 8, 2010 5:56 PM
    "Brian Brown"

    Dear Friend of Marriage,

    In a story this Sunday (Feb. 7), the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker is gay and called his orientation, "The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage."

    We have no idea whether the report is true or not. But we do know one really big important fact about Judge Walker: He's been an amazingly biased and one-sided force throughout this trial, far more akin to an activist than a neutral referee. That's no secret at all.

    Protect Marriage, the defendants in this case are effectively being held hostage by Judge Walker and cannot really comment.

    But Judge Walker's bias from the bench includes:

    A series of rulings permitting deep and deeply irrelevant "fishing expeditions" into the private and personal motivations and secret campaign strategy of campaign proponents. It wasn't six guys at Protect Marriage that passed Prop 8 it was 7 million Californians. But Judge Walker went so far as to order the Prop 8 campaign to disclose private internal communications about messages that were considered for public use but never actually used. He even ordered the campaign to turn over copies of all internal records and e-mail messages relating to campaign strategy.

    Even though the Prop 8 supporters were forced to turn over private, internal documents and emails, Walker has refused to demand the same from opponents of the measure. In fact, Walker has refused to even rule on a motion to compel the discovery of this information, even though he has already closed testimony in the case. That alone is an unbelievable tilting of the playing field.

    Walker has presided over a show trial designed to generate sympathetic headlines and news coverage for gay marriage supporters. Witness after witness was allowed to testify about their "expert" opinion that homosexuals have been discriminated against, that they feel badly when society does not validate their relationships, and that the passage of Prop 8 was simply an echo of historic prejudice and bigotry foisted on society by religious zealots.

    To show the lengths that Walker has gone to create a "record" favoring the plaintiffs, he even allowed one "expert" witness -- a gay man from Colorado who has never lived in California and was never exposed to any Prop 8 campaign messages -- to testify that his parents' efforts to change his sexual orientation failed.

    But the most egregious, and damaging, of all of Judge Walker's rulings was his determination to violate federal rules to broadcast his show trial worldwide. The US Supreme Court eventually blocked Walker's efforts (and rapped his biased knuckles sharply!) finding that he improperly changed the rules "at the eleventh hour" in violation of federal law. (Unfortunately, however, but by the time the Supreme Court issued a permanent stay two days into trial, the supporters of Prop 8 had already lost two-thirds of their expert witnesses who feared retaliation from the publicity).

    Judge Walker's bias has been so extreme, he's earned a rare judicial "twofer." Key elements of his "fishing expedition" rulings were already reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (notably one of the most liberal in the nation) and the Supreme Court had to step in to block his illegal attempt to broadcast the trial.

    It is highly unusual for a higher court to have to intercede in a trial judge's handling of a trial while it is going on -- yet Walker has had that "distinction" twice in the same case -- and we're not yet even at closing arguments.

    There's only one saving grace to Judge Walker's bias. It's so big, and so obvious, not only the American public but the Supreme Court itself is already aware we have bias in the trial judge presiding.
    Brian Brown


    Brian S. Brown
    Executive Director
    National Organization for Marriage
    20 Nassau Street, Suite 242
    Princeton, NJ 08542

    Posted by: Jennifer L | Feb 8, 2010 6:11:13 PM

  23. It's called DISCRIMINATION and as long as it's against gays, evidently it's all right with the majority. When will it ever end?

    Posted by: Dan | Feb 11, 2010 1:47:39 PM

Post a comment


« «Watch: Palin Caught Using Hand as 'Cheat Sheet' at Tea Party Confab« «