Judge Vaughn Walker Says He is Gay for First Time Publicly, Says Judges Should Never Recuse Themselves Over Sexuality

Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, spoke to reporters today and came out publicly for the first time.

Walker Reuters:

The talk to a handful of reporters was Walker's first public comments to reporters about presiding over the lawsuit challenging to Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. Walker struck down the ban as unconstitutional, and the case is currently on appeal.

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

Walker also said he would never think of recusing himself from a case over his sexuality:

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.

Walker is returning to private practice, Business Wire adds:

The Honorable Vaughn R. Walker, former chief judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, announced today that he has opened a law practice focusing on dispute management and resolution. This includes alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as well as counseling clients with respect to litigation risks, especially in protracted and complex litigation.

Prop 8 Trial Judge is Gay, and Media is Finally Talking About it [tr]


  1. says

    Thurgood Marshall never recused himself from African American civil rights cases, despite being African American and bringing the landmark Brown v. Board of Ed to the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Conner never recused herself from sex discrimination cases. Antonin Scalia does not recuse himself from cases involving religion, despite being one of several Catholics on the Supreme Court. Judge Walker is correct; it would be a terrible precedent for LGBT judges to automatically recuse themselves from LGBT-related cases.

  2. mike/ says

    @stuffed animal – using your logic than every judge who is a man should recuse himself from any case dealing with men’s issues; every woman should recuse herself from any case dealing with women’s issues; every christian should recuse him/herself from any case dealing with the christian issues; every African-American should recuse him/herself from any case dealing with African-American issues; every judge who also has an MBA or business experience should recuse him/herself from dealing with business issues…

    this would go on ad nauseum… the emphasis being on ‘nauseum';

    @Kevin – your Thurgood Marshall example is the perfect one! thank you…

  3. mike/ says

    every time i went to the link that stuffedanimal posted my browser crashed!!! probably the devil; oh, wait! i don’t believe in the devil; gremlins on the other hand…

  4. Alan says

    Hmm… Isn’t that case still being decided?Or at least the follow-up to the case? While I agree with him, I’m not sure whether the timing is helpful.

  5. K says

    @Alan, I understand what you’re saying, and I used to feel the same way. The thing is, this isn’t going to be over for a long time. I think it’s great that Walker is publicly defending his decision (frankly, I think it was his duty) not to recuse himself. I’m glad he’s hitting back.

  6. Steve says

    As far as I understand it, this wasn’t that much of a secret either. There was always some speculation that he is gay, with some people saying that it was kind of known.

  7. Paul R says

    Steve is right; both sides knew about this from the outset of the case. Prop 8 supporters even complained about it at one point, saying that Walker would be biased. The SF Chronicle had a cover story about it at one point, and the fact that his partner is a physician had already been revealed.

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