Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker Describes Closeted Past, ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy

In an upcoming book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Jo Becker, Judge Vaughn Walker — the U.S. District Court judge who declared California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8 unconstitutional — reveals that he underwent 'ex-gay' reparative therapy as a young man.

WalkerSF Gate has more:

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality describes Walker blinking back tears as he listened to the man's testimony in 2010, recalling the therapy he had undergone three decades earlier to try to unsnarl uncertainties about his own sexual orientation – but it was a nightmare not revealed publicly until now…

Becker writes that Walker told her the psychiatrist – after some counseling that Walker no longer remembers in any detail – ultimately determined he was not actually gay because he had not yet had sex with a man.

"And he pronounced me cured," recalled Walker – who "wanted badly to believe that was true," the book says…

The "conversion" therapy episodes are among several the book reveals as Walker recalls his internal struggles over his sexuality – and whether, or how, to disclose it.

He says he had "faux romances" with women, entered his first relationship with a man in his late 30s, and was thinking of coming out publicly – but pulled back when he found himself representing the U.S. Olympic Committee in a trademark suit against a San Francisco organization that wanted to call its athletic competition the Gay Olympics.

… After some years on the bench, as Becker describes it, he "began to live a little more openly," occasionally visiting a gay bar, and being seen at social events with his partner, a physician. But he went public with his orientation only in April 2011, more than two months after his retirement.

Shortly after ruling on Prop 8, Walker came out and anti-gay supporters of the law tried to have his decision thrown out on the basis of his inability to be “impartial” as a gay man. That challenge was heard and dismissed by a judge who said that such logic would render female judges unable to rule on gender bias cases.

Becker's book has faced criticism for largely crediting the gay marriage movement's successes to the people she interviewed — something David Mixner noted in his most recent Towleroad column.


  1. Mastik8 says

    The legitimization of Becker’s book begins. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Tidbits like this will be leaked, the disagreements will be forgotten and hers will be the standard that others reference. Socky, er, I men Sully and Wolfsen should get their versions out quick before Becker’s version is calcified into cant.

  2. pete n sfo says

    The whole Jo Becker ‘controversy’ feels like piling on at this point. Her book is a snapshot of the stories of some folks, in a key time period who were pivotal in moving things forward in a dramatic way. Is it the whole story, no way.

    Nothing is stopping all of her detractors from writing their own versions. Use your keyboard for something more than complaining on the internet!

  3. michiganjd says

    I clerked for another federal district judge in the area. Judge Walker is a very good person. Always polite and kind. I think that a story like this is extremely important to counter “ex-gay therapy.”

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