U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the federal Proposition 8 trial, was outed Sunday, February 7 in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In their Matier & Ross column, Phil Matier and Andy Ross write that Walker (right), who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, “has never taken pains to disguise – or advertise – his orientation.” The column is “exclusive” to the paper’s Sunday print edition and won’t be online until Monday.
The column states that Walker, 65, offered a “no comment” when asked if he had any concerns about “being characterized as gay.”
Matier and Ross talked to several gay San Francisco politicos and lawyers, none of whom believe Walker’s being gay will influence how he rules in the case now before him, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, two same-sex couples denied the right to marry in the Golden State, tried to show during the 12-day trial last month that there is no rational basis for Prop 8 and that it harms same-sex couples and their children.
Evidence in the case is now being reviewed before Walker hears closing arguments, likely to take place sometime in March.
The columnists wrote that Walker’s orientation is an open secret among those involved in the Prop 8 case.
Openly gay State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) told the columnists that Walker’s background is a nonissue. “It seems curious to me,” Leno told the paper, that when the state Supreme Court heard a challenge to Prop 8, the justices’ sexual orientation “was never discussed.”
A federal judge who is friends with Walker called the columnists to state that Walker does not want people to think he “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.
For their part, defenders of Prop 8 told the paper that they have no plans to make an issue of Walker being gay.
“We’re not going to say anything about that,” Prop 8 general counsel Andy Pugno said.
Walker himself drew the ire of gay rights activists back in the 1980s when, as a private attorney, he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in its successful effort to bar the San Francisco Gay Olympics from using the word “Olympics.” The quadrennial event is now known as the Gay Games.