Prop 8 Judge: Being Gay No Reason To Recuse

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A same-sex couple hold hands during a sit-in protest when same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses from the San Francisco county clerk on February 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

    The now-retired federal judge who struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage said in San Francisco Wednesday he saw no reason to step down from the case because he is gay.

    "I don't think it's relevant. I never thought it was appropriate to recuse myself from that case," former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker told a small group of news reporters.

    Walker said, "It would not be a positive development if you thought a judge's sexuality, ethnicity, national origin or gender would prevent a judge from handling a case.

    "That would be a slippery slope," he said.

    Walker, 67, retired from the San Francisco-based U.S. District Court for Northern California in February after more than 21 years on the court, including six years as chief judge. A Republican and former business lawyer, he was appointed in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.

    Walker spoke at a meeting with federal court reporters at which he announced he is setting up a private practice focused on alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation. He also commented on his support of allowing cameras in federal courtrooms and on other cases he presided over on issues ranging from national-security wiretapping to computer interface copyrights. 

    In August, Walker struck down Proposition 8, the state's voter-approved ban on gay and lesbian marriage, saying that measure violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection. The sponsors of the initiative are seeking to appeal that ruling before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The case has taken a detour, however, while the California Supreme Court decides whether the sponsors of a state voter initiative have the standing, or legal right, to defend it on appeal when the state's governor and attorney general refuse to do so.

    At the time of a non-jury trial on the case in January 2010, Walker publicly neither confirmed nor denied being homosexual. Wednesday's meeting appears to be the first time, or one of the first times, he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation.