Judge Walker publicly comes out; never considered recusing himself

April 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm 61 comments

By Adam Bink

Very interesting and courageous comments from Judge Walker, who, for the first time, acknowledged that he is gay:

The U.S. judge who struck down California’s gay marriage ban never considered his own homosexuality as a reason to recuse himself from the case, he said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn 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.

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 the man for 10 years. “He is a physician,” Walker said.

I agree on recusal. We can’t be assigning case after case to others because of different characteristics, but more to the point, judges must be nominated who can set their own personal characteristics aside and judge independently.

Entry filed under: Prop 8 trial.

Launching a 50-state network to repeal DOMA Keeping our community healthy, vibrant and accountable

61 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Phillip R  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Yea, there’ll be much ado about nothing over it.

  • 2. Kathleen  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    • 3. Ann S.  |  April 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm


      • 4. JonT  |  April 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm

        Agreed. If being gay would somehow make him biased, then you would also have to accept that being straight would have made him just as biased.

        • 5. Sheryl, Mormon Mother of a wonderful son who just happens to be gay  |  April 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm

          Exactly, JonT. Of course, the other side does not see it that way.

    • 6. LCH  |  April 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm


  • 7. Richard A. Jernigan  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    This is excellent news! And the fact that he is in a long-term committed relationship makes it even better.

  • 8. Ed Cortes  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    WOW! I’m speechless.

  • 9. IT  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    This came up during the trial, with the indefensible notion that only straight white Christian men can be unbiased. Because everyone else is a “them” .

  • 10. AnonyGrl  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Well GOOD for him!!! I hope that he and his partner are enjoying his retirement, and that they have a long and happy life together!

  • 11. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I admire Judge Walker for having the confidence and sense of self to be who he is, while not allowing his private life to become public property if he doesn’t want it to. After a life of service, he deserves to enjoy his retirement.

  • 12. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    That is wonderful. I am proud of him for coming forward with this.
    And I agree on the recusal stance….if he a gay man was to recuse hisself than so would have a heterosexual judge.
    One could argue bias on both sides I suppose

    • 13. Chris in Lathrop  |  April 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      OK, let’s have a show of hands: How many asexual justices are there on federal benches? None? Guess they all have to recuse themselves then? And then we would have to err in favor of personal liberty, because this is a government of the people, so marriage equality for all! Issue settled.

  • 15. Mark  |  April 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I can hear NOM’s response already.

    • 16. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      Can’t ya just :-)
      But if we were to say a hetero judge who ruled against us was bias and in need of recusal we would be called all sorts of vile names by the Nombies

      • 17. Reformed Conservative  |  April 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

        This is what I am hearing.

        Dear supporters, as you can now see, Judge Walker’s legal education was nothing more than a carefully executed tactic on the gay agenda. No doubt, the are other sleeper cells waiting for their moment as well. It is now, (yet again?) more important important than ever for you to send us lots and lots of money.

        • 18. Mark  |  April 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

          Sounds like NOM…

        • 19. JonT  |  April 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm

          I think you nailed it perfectly RC :)

    • 20. Rob in CA  |  April 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      Let’s hope NOM takes this and runs with it. I’m happy to give them as much rope as they want!

  • […] Judge Walker publicly comes out; never considered recusing himself […]

  • 22. Michael  |  April 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Are heterosexuals routinely recused from cases, because of their sexual orientation? Or are they not allowed to rule on cases involving gay civil rights, because they “might” be biased against gay people? The same should apply to Judge Walker. And God bless him!

  • 23. Vaati Raptor  |  April 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Judge Walker treated the Prop 8 case with absolute professionalism. He heard every credible bit of evidence, sat through lengthy peer reviewed testimony (From our side, the other side didn’t have any of that sciency peer reviewy stuff) and above all he outlined his reasons with superb logic as to why Prop 8 was unconstitutional.

    That he may have a stake in it personally made it all the more important that he conducted the trial as well as he did. If they decide to go after him for his sexuality, then our community must be there to point out how their flawed logic could easily be turned around and used against them.

    The only way to assure 100% unbiased judgement is by making a judge with no sexual identity to speak of, who’s a mix of all races, a member of all social classes, and has no concept of religion. That would not describe 99.9% of the judges currently serving. So while we’re still giving the task of judging to human beings I suggest NOM and the extremist right be very careful how they choose to respond to this.

    By demanding that no homosexual be allowed to judge on homosexual rights, it stands to reason that no heterosexual should be allowed to judge on heterosexual/majority rights.

    • 24. JonT  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      The only way to assure 100% unbiased judgement is by making a judge with no sexual identity…

      Reminds me of the ‘solution’ espoused in an old TV Sci-fi series (in the ’80’s I think) called ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’. It was bad, but in a good way – I watched the whole series via netflix some years ago.

      In that time, there were no human judges – all cases were decided by computers based on machine logic and proven facts only.

      Only then could true impartiality be guaranteed :)

      I for one, welcome our future computer overlords.

      • 25. Vaati Raptor  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

        Well that would cut out the human fallibility and bias issues, not to mention if it were a computer it could be strapped to a lie detector and know instantly whether a human’s testimony was valid or not.

        Unless NOM wants the Borg deciding their fate in court, I suggest they don’t rock the boat too much about Walker’s humanness.

  • 26. Dave P  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Do I get a cookie for keeping this a secret until now? A good friend of mine works in the DA’s office here in SF and knows Walker, and had mentioned this to me a long time ago. And some of my friends met him while having brunch at Cafe Flore in the Castro a few months ago : )
    I couldn’t say anything until now.

    • 27. Kathleen  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      If it’s up to me, you get a cookie any time you want one, DaveP. ” :)

      I think this was a pretty well known “open secret” though most people said (correctly so, imo) it was inappropriate to assume his orientation until/if he chose to make a public statement.

      This DOES tell me that I can trust you to keep a confidence…. which is an important personal characteristic in my view.

      • 28. Bill in San Diego  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

        Anything happening in the Prop 8 appeal? Got two notifications of orders being issued today, one by the appeals court, one by the California Supreme Court. Were those merely routine and technical?


        • 29. Kathleen  |  April 6, 2011 at 7:13 pm

          The short answer is that these were merely routine and technical.

          The longer answer is that both of these were just notices about copies of items being placed on dockets re: actions that had been taken in other courts. In one case it was an order of the CA SC being placed on the docket of the 9th Circuit and in the other it was a copy of a 9th Circuit order being placed on the docket for the case in the district court.

          The one from the CA SC placed on the 9th Circuit docket was just an order giving permission for attorneys who aren’t members of the California bar to appear in front of the CA SC. The one placed on the district court docket was the order in which the 9th Circuit denied the request to lift the stay (already reported when the 9th Circuit originally issued the order).

          Glad you asked; I’m sure others who get these notices wondered, too.

          • 30. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  April 7, 2011 at 7:58 am

            yep! tx!

    • 31. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Of course you get a cookie and MILK :-)

    • 32. Sheryl Carver  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

      Cookies & good karma, Dave P!

      May all who know you treat you with the same respect that you showed Judge Walker.

  • 33. bJason  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Dear Honorable Judge Walker,
    May you be blessed, good sir. Your years of thoughtful and reasoned service to this country and her ideals of justice for all have not gone unnoticed and are greatly appreciated.

    It is my sincere hope that peace and love surround you to the end of your days. Your strength of character will not be forgotten.

    All my best, always,

  • 34. Maggie4NoH8  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Oh lordie!

    Can you hear that rat-a-tat, ping, ping from across the country?

    (That would be all the pearl necklaces inadvertently snapping when the mass of pearl-clutchers, in a dramatic, fell swoop reacted with an exaggerated variety of mouth-covering, back-of-hand-to-forehead-in-preparation-for-fainting, etc gestures)…

    For all my redneck homo’s out there…

    “… and Judge, I feel a song comin’ on… ‘Oh the fox went out one stormy night…”

    For Judge Walker, I say thank you! Thank you for being the person you are… I have the utmost respect for the manner you conducted the Prop 8 trial (I am pretty certain I couldn’t have been as “patient” shall we say?), and for the example and life you have led.

  • 35. Maggie4NoH8  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    BTW, I sincerely hope Judge Walker has followed our community here since retiring… I think we all feel a great deal of admiration and love for him, and I’d hate that he misses out on that.

  • 36. Ronnie  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm


  • 37. Felyx  |  April 6, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    “That’s a very slippery slope,” Walker said.

    This man is a riot. I absolutely love his humor!

    He knew exactly what this case meant and he understands the people trying to defend it. No wonder he gave them every single last opportunity to do anything they could.

    Classic man, just classic!!!

  • 38. Ronnie  |  April 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Dan Savage OWNS (yes, with all capital letters) maggie gallagher (yes, with all lower case letters {apologies, snarky moment})

    Dan Savage Is Coming For—For! Not On!—Your Children!

    “Gallagher, who once had a child out of wedlock, speaks for the fidelity-over-anything-else crowd (fidelity over reality, statistics, biology, ability, etc.). Now some people are capable of abstaining before marriage and being faithful to one partner for life—some people, but not Maggie—but these people represent a tiny minority of all sexually active adults.”

    (me) hehehe…blew up M.G.’s spot..OOOOOOOOOOHHH!!! SNAP!!!

    This was an awesome read….bows to Mr. Dan Savage…I haven’t read much of his work, but I may need to catch up….I am certainly going to DVR his new show on MTV titled “Savage U”…..

    One of my favs from the article was the part when Dan talks about knowing what women are like…..I wish there was a “love” or “like” button (Facebook feature) after that paragraph.


  • 39. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Senators Kerry, Leahy, 10 Others Ask DOJ, DHS to Hold Same-Sex Bi-National Couples’ Immigration Petitions

    Senators Kerry, Leahy, 10 Others Ask DOJ, DHS to Hold Same-Sex Bi-National Couples’ Immigration Petitions

  • 41. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Williams Institute 10th anniversary. A wonderful, credible research source.

    ‘Brookings’ Of Gay Rights Movement Marks 10 Years As Brains Behind Marriage, DADT Policy Shifts


    • 42. Kathleen  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Really sorry I wasn’t able to attend their 10-year anniv. event. Some great items on the program.

  • 43. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    From RI

    Gay Marriage Intrigue at Statehouse


  • 44. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Judge Walker’s new law practice

    The Honorable Vaughn R. Walker Returns to Private Practice; Will Focus on Dispute Management and Resolution

    Read more: http://www.bradenton.com/2011/04/06/3094032/the-honorable-vaughn-r-walker.html#ixzz1IoAD4lsz

  • 45. Sagesse  |  April 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Delaware Senate to vote on civil unions


  • 46. Nicole  |  April 7, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I was kind of hoping he wasn’t gay, if only to fight the idea that this battle is about straight folks vs gay folks. On the plus column though, no one understands a gay person’s motivation other than a gay person. Making statements like “Well, I believe it’s a choice” to someone who knows for a fact what motivates them is a hard sell I think.

  • 47. Ed  |  April 7, 2011 at 6:13 am

    OT, sorry if this has been posted before. Good analysis of DOMA and its “defense” by repubs….


    • 48. Sagesse  |  April 7, 2011 at 7:44 am

      Bookmarked to read later. You’re right, this is an excellent analysis, and I don’t recall seeing it before.

      • 49. Ann S.  |  April 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm

        Great article, I’m sharing it with others.

  • 50. James Sweet  |  April 7, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I could ALMOST see a (weak) case for recusal if Walker had been actively seeking to marry his partner prior to Prop 8 passing… even then, as you say, that’s a dangerous precedent to set.

    That he was gay could not in itself possibly count as a reason, though, by any stretch of the imagine. The judges who presided over Loving v. Virginia were all (presumably straight, though who knows) white men. That means they each could potentially have married a black woman if they had wanted to. Does that mean they all should have recused themselves? heh…

  • 51. Sagesse  |  April 7, 2011 at 8:04 am

    The Williams Institute is gradually updating its excellent demographics on the LGBT population in the US.

    How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?


    I also read yesterday that the estimated number of LGBT servicemembers is 71,000; until recently, the estimate was 66,000.

    • 52. Bill in San Diego  |  April 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      Just looked at the study, which is very interesting. It finds that while approximately 3.5% of the population is willing to identify as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual (transgender is harder to measure, but the study estimates 0.3%, but that figure totals to 700,000 individuals), a substantially larger number of adults admit to same-sex activity (8.2%) or same-sex attraction (11%). Self-identified bisexuals slightly outnumber lesbian or gay individuals, though identifying as bisexual is far more prevalent in women than in men.

      This demographic work has resulted in smashing stereotypes (e.g., we don’t all live in big city “ghettos,” and, in fact, a lot of same-sex couples with children – mostly women – live in small towns in the South; we are by no means all well-to-do, again particularly women raising children; and same-sex couples exist in virtually every county in the U.S., even in the reddest of states). These data provide a powerful argument for the establishment of marriage equality nationwide.

  • 53. Sagesse  |  April 7, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Woman Loses Suit After Being Fired by Wal-Mart for Anti-Gay Diatribe

    Woman Loses Suit After Being Fired by Wal-Mart for Anti-Gay Diatribe

  • 55. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 7, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I wonder if Thurgood Marshall who was appointed in ’67 was part of the case or not….he may have been appointed after Loving was heard and decided.

    • 56. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 7, 2011 at 8:46 am

      That was supposed to be in reply to James Sweet

    • 57. Richard A. Jernigan  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Mark, you were correct. Loving was decided before Justice Marshall was on SCOTUS. Here is the list of the judges who rendered the Loving ruling, courtesy of Wikipedia.

      Court membership
      Chief Justice
      Earl Warren
      Associate Justices
      Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
      Tom C. Clark · John M. Harlan II
      William J. Brennan, Jr. · Potter Stewart
      Byron White · Abe Fortas

      • 58. Mark M (Seattle)  |  April 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

        Thanks Richard :-)
        I hadn’t had a chance to do any searching/research yet

  • 60. ns  |  April 8, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Hooray for coming out! Always a big thing, and nearly always the right thing, to do.

    It does make me a little sad though, that Walker’s going to be such an easy target. Here’s to hoping that the appeals court upholds his just ruling.

  • 61. Ebony  |  April 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    aKC53i Great tnhiking! That really breaks the mold!


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