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The (Non-)Revelation from the Prop 8 Trial

February 10, 2010

Judge Walker, who is presiding over the Prop 8 trial, is gay.  It was never a secret, but now the National Organization for Marriage is trying to claimthe short-fallings of their case are some how tied to this.  A San Francisco Chronicle editorial comes to his defense acknowledging that all judges have to put aside their personal feelings and experiences.

Vaughn Walker almost lost his chance to reach the federal bench because of claims that he was anti-gay and hostile to civil rights. Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his alleged “insensitivity” to gays and the poor. His first appointment, from President Ronald Reagan in 1987, stalled out in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Back then, Walker struggled to assure skeptical liberals that, as a judge, he could rule with impartiality even though he had represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in its successful effort to prevent an athletic competition in San Francisco from being called the Gay Olympic Games. He was harshly criticized for putting a lien on the home of a gay-games leader who was dying of AIDS. Walker insisted that he was not anti-gay and was only doing his best to serve his client.

Walker also was under fire for his membership in San Francisco’s all-male Olympic Club. He resigned during the nomination process, which helped cement his confirmation.

Those who understood the distinct roles of lawyer-advocate and judge recognized that a person of ethics and fidelity to the law could separate his or her personal views and experiences from professional duty.

Today, at age 65, Judge Walker is presiding over the challenge to Proposition 8, which may well determine how quickly gays and lesbians achieve full marriage equality in this country. We now know what Walker never bothered to reveal when he was being castigated as anti-gay: He is gay, which changes neither his legal history nor his fitness for this assignment…

And as Debra Saunders, also of the San Francisco Chronicle, astutely points out,

After all, at The Chronicle, gay reporters can and do cover gay issues with the advantage of personal insight. Some might claim that they are biased, but it’s not as if there is a neutral identity – straight? white? male? – that is free from bias.

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