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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.

Prop 8 Authors Ask California Supreme Court To Stop Same-Sex Marriages

First-gay-marriageProposition 8 has been dead for less than a month, and already, its advocates are trying to honor its memory by asking the California Supreme Court to order county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. They contend that governor Jerry Brown lacked the authority to put an end to the enforcement of Prop 8, since a provision in the California constitution prohibits officials from refusing to enforce a law unless an appellate court has first determined that said law is unconstitutional. According to the LA Times, "there is no binding appellate ruling that says Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

The 50-page challenge is being filed by Protect Marriage, the same group that sponsored Prop 8, and is stated as “concerning the rule of law and limitations on public officials’ authority.” They claim that the California court has a duty to intervene. If not...

“the end result will be to allow one federal district judge — empowered by state officials who openly advocated for and ceded to Proposition 8’s demise — to nullify a constitutional initiative approved by more than seven million voters.”

Prop-8-yes-noThis new challenge is a continuation of the controversy surrounding the injunction filed by now-retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker. Since the U.S. Supreme Court did not directly issue a ruling on the case, Walker's injunction was left in place. Thus, this new challenge would expect to put a new spin on the earlier decision, especially when it was the subject of such controversy at the time. 

The LA Times remarked that legal experts consider this move to be "an extreme long shot". UC Davis Law Professor Vikram Amar said to them that the California Supreme Court will likely see this challenge "as an invitation to intervene in a federal matter." Amar went on to explain.

“The California Supreme Court will likely stay out of this and say the scope of Judge Walker’s order is a matter for the federal courts to determine...State courts generally won’t get into the business of construing federal court orders. They leave that to the federal courts.”

The court normally meets on Wednesdays to decide on such challenges. However, they can theoretically issue a decision at any time. They could also simply refuse to intervene, or ask for additional written arguments before issuing a decision. 

Judge Vaughn Walker, Who Struck Down Prop 8., Speaks Out

Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down Proposition 8, reflects on the case as SCOTUS prepares to take it up, in a conversation with the Mercury News:

WalkerWalker wasn't always so sure the Proposition 8 case would reach the Supreme Court, although he prepared from the outset for that possibility. He notes that the gay marriage debate was at a different juncture in 2009 -- few states had legalized same-sex marriage (nine do now), and President Barack Obama was still several years away from backing same-sex marriage rights in the courts.

"It was a different time, and the Supreme Court doesn't always get out in front of public opinion," Walker said. "Not that many cases go to the Supreme Court."

Over the objections of Proposition 8 backers, Walker ordered a full trial to establish a complete record on the arguments from both sides, aware the higher courts would review whatever he decided. "If you are going to have an issue that deals with a significant constitutional matter, it pays to have some facts that are established the old-fashioned way," he said.

But, to Walker's surprise, after lawyers for same-sex couples put on a parade of witnesses, gay marriage foes put on scant evidence, offering just two witnesses, including one who later came out in favor of same-sex marriage rights. "I did think the proponents of Proposition 8 would put on a case," Walker said.

"It never occurred to me that they would ... ," and his trademark baritone trails off. Walker asks for the correct baseball term for taking a swing and a miss at a pitch and then just shrugs.

And whiff they did.

Legalizing Gay: The Judges


Michael_Fitzgerald_insert_c_Michael_Key Ecm_pro_061187To celebrate Pride 2012 and to honor the great civil rights and political successes we have earned recently, I would like to offer a series of columns on the lawyers, advocates, scholars, and individual leaders who have sacrificed so much, developed novel legal arguments, and won the legal victories upon which we stand today. It is impossible to include everyone; an entire life's work would fail to honor all of our forefathers. But these few representatives symbolize the contributions of the greater whole: a group of men and women, young and old, who have sacrificed so that we can live a life of freedom today. In today's column, the judges.

J_Paul_Oetken_horizontal_insert_cMichael_KeyFair and scholarly judges cross racial, ethnic, party, religious, and socioeconomic lines; no one has a monopoly on the ability to interpret the law and issue a just decision. And although it is only natural that almost every progressive federal court decision advancing the cause of gay rights has come from a straight judge, our community's quest for honor, dignity, and equality is aided by the integration of openly gay judges on the federal bench. It is not that gay judges will make progay decisions; rather, brilliant legal minds who happen to be gay help demystify "gayness" for other judges and legitimize gay contributions to American society.

Recently, openly gay lawyers Michael Fitzgerald (top, right), Paul Oetken, (right) and Alison Nathan (top, left) won Senate confirmation to district court benches in California and New York. All three judges are incomparably smart and eminently deserving of their elevation, and conservatives and liberals in legal circles expect them to be unassailable, fair, and honorable judges. Their path was made possible by more senior judges, the Honorable Deborah Batts -- an African-American lesbian -- and the recently-retired Judge Vaughn Walker -- the gay man at the helm of the Perry v. Brown trial. Judges Batts and Walker came out after they were confirmed to the bench, but without that progress, confirming 
openly gay judges would never have been possible. 

Continued... AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "Legalizing Gay: The Judges" »

Here's VIDEO of Last Week's Prop 8 Hearings


Miss last week's hearings in the Proposition8 case? They were likely the last ones before the Court rules on the case, and dealt with the unsealing of trial videotapes and efforts to vacate Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Prop 8, because Walker is gay.

Watch full video of the hearings, AFTER THE JUMP...

And in case you missed it, our legal expert Ari Ezra Waldman's analysis is HERE.

Continue reading "Here's VIDEO of Last Week's Prop 8 Hearings" »

Prop 8's Second Date with the Ninth Circuit


It has literally been and up-and-down relationship for Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, and the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thursday marked the second time the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and its legal team, along with the Prop 8 proponents, ProtectMarriage, argued before the appeals court. And, it is hopefully the last.

After Judge Vaughn Walker declared Prop 8 unconstitutional, a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Hawkins, and N. Randy Smith heard arguments on the merits of that ruling and on the right of Prop 8 proponents to appeal it in the first place. As we all know, the panel's decision was delayed over a year while we waited for the California Supreme Court to interpret a question of state law. While we are still waiting for the Ninth Circuit's ultimate opinion, Prop 8 came back to Judges Reinhardt, Hawkins, and Smith on Thursday to discuss the release of the trial videotape and the proponents' motion to vacate the lower court's decision. News-judge-vaughn-walker-top-1

I have argued here that releasing the videotapes is a tough sell as a matter of law, much more so than the slam dunk victory awaiting AFER, Ted Olson, and David Boies on the issue of vacation. Let's take the easy one first. In short, the Prop 8 proponents' rabidly anti-gay argument that Judge Vaughn Walker's decision should be thrown out because he was, at the time of the Perry trial, in a long-term relationship with another man, and thus could be not be impartial on the issue of same-sex marriage, strikes at the very heart of the independent judiciary. It presumes that judges' personal views necessarily infect their professional conduct, which not only flies in the face of reason, but contradicts a tenet of Anglo-American law since the Norman invasion. It also is blatantly discriminatory: if Judge Walker had to recuse himself from a gay marriage case because he could have possibly wanted to marry a man in the future, would all heterosexuals have to recuse themselves from divorce proceedings? Would all African-Americans have to recuse themselves from civil rights cases? The Prop 8 proponents would either have to say YES and be laughed at, or say NO, and admit that they just hate gays.

Releasing the videotapes -- records created by and kept by Judge Walker for his use in chambers -- is a good idea, but a tough call on the law. My previous argument noted that, for better or for worse, we usually make public a trial transcript, but do not normally televise or release video of trials; therefore, any motion to do so requires special justification. Releasing the videotapes would be transcript plus, so we would need a sufficient reason for tack on the plus. However, attorneys for the various media outlets supporting release have argued that the Prop 8 proponents have to offer specific reasons why the tapes should not be released, suggesting that keeping the tapes under wraps is a special departure from the norm requiring justifications. The policy arguments favoring release are extraordinarily strong, but that does not mean the law is on our side.

The Ninth Circuit is now poised to issue a comprehensive decision addressing the motion to vacate, the videotapes, standing, and, perhaps, even the merits. At least with respect to the first two tertiary issues, the Ninth Circuit is most likely to toss the motion to vacate and deny the motion to release the videotapes. Still, that half-victory will be sweet enough, as the court should also uphold Judge Walker's monumental ruling declaring marriage discrimination unconstitutional.

Continue AFTER THE JUMP for a discussion of what happened at the Ninth Circuit on Thursday, where both sides argued the motion to vacate and the motion to release the videotapes.

Continue reading "Prop 8's Second Date with the Ninth Circuit" »


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