Judge who struck down Prop 8 confirms he's gay

AP News

4/7/2011 7:03:58 PM - AP News

The federal judge who struck down California's gay marriage ban has confirmed longtime rumors that he's gay, but said his sexuality was irrelevant in deciding the landmark case.

Speaking for the first time about the case since retiring from the bench in February, former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said he never considered recusing himself from deciding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 because of his sexual orientation, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"If you thought a judge's sexuality, ethnicity, national origin (or) gender would prevent the judge from handling a case, that's a very slippery slope," Walker told reporters Wednesday.

"I don't think it's relevant," he said.

Rumors that Walker is gay had surfaced during last year's 12-day trial in San Francisco over Proposition 8, the voter-approved law passed in 2008 that restricted marriage in California to one man and one woman.

Some gay marriage opponents accused him of bias by accepting the case, which was randomly assigned to him.

Walker's August ruling that Proposition 8 violates the civil rights of same-sex couples is being challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The retired judge noted that no parties in the case ever asked him to step down, and Proposition 8 sponsors who are defending the measure in court have not made an issue of his sexual orientation in appeals.

Walker said he stands by his decision and hopes the higher courts will review the case on its merits.

The former corporate lawyer was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George H.W. Bush and gained a reputation during his 21-year judicial career for his libertarian leanings.

Since leaving the court, the 67-year-old has returned to private law practice, specializing mediation and arbitration.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle