The Prop 8 Judge Is Gay, and It Doesn't MatterS

Once upon a time, gay activists hated Vaughn Walker for legally squashing the Gay Olympics. But this weekend The San Francisco Chronicle definitively revealed that the Prop. 8 judge is gay.

Judge Walker's sexual identity has overlapped with his public life before. Appointed to the bench by the first President Bush in 1989, he spent his early career battling the perception that he was anti-gay after he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a trademark infringement battle with San Francisco's Gay Olympics. Nancy Pelosi accused him of "insensitivity." (Putting a lien on the Gay Olympics' AIDS-ravaged leader during the man's dying days didn't help.) Walker had "no comment" on Chronicle political gossip duo Matier and Ross' question about his sexuality, but did note that "Life is full of irony" when they brought up the Gay Olympics debacle. Matier and Ross' headline is both report and conclusion: "Judge Being Gay a Nonissue During Prop. 8 Trial."

It'd be cool if the relative quiet on Walker's orientation was because America recognized that Judge Walker's sex life doesn't affect his job. (Minimal MSM and right-wing pickup so far.) As SF Weekly points out, even calling the Chronicle's article an "outing" is misleading: Walker never tried to hide his orientation, and it's pretty common for judges to keep their personal lives away from the spotlight.

A funnier explanation for the relative quiet—that the right-wing bullies who usually drive a story like this forward simply don't read the San Francisco Chronicle or gay blogs like Queerty, which has been reporting this story for months—is perhaps slowed the Breitbartian bullhorns, too. Recall that six months ago right-wingers feared Sonia Sotomayor incapable of fairly judging white men. When it comes to minority judges, plenty of people are still idiots. Hard-right hangouts like The Corner are just warming up, so the wingnut freak-out machine may fly into action yet.

The most cynical guess would be that the right measured the risks and calculated that luck of the draw (which is how the Prop. 8 trial landed in Walker's courtroom) is still in their favor. Here's why:

  • A Republican appointment, Walker is believed to lean conservative, albeit by way of libertarianism, which could make him gay-friendlier.

  • Almost everyone agrees that, after 21 years on the bench, Walker is fair. There is no reason to believe he'd change now—if anything, the Gay Olympics debacle demonstrated an imperviousness to public pressure. (And resisting the urge to scream But I am one in Nancy Pelosi's face was probably hard.)

  • If he rules against Prop. 8, the homophobes will have their big, nasty appeal primed and ready.
Lest there be any doubt: Judge Walker's sexuality is irrelevant. Assuming gay judges always side with other gays (or "Wise Latinas" with other Latinas) is a flawed logic that assumes neutrality lies with heterosexuals (or whites, or males). Sexuality and identity are inescapable; you could just as easily argue that a straight judge will be biased because all straights secretly fear gays. Or that a straight judge with a gay child would be the most biased. The rabbit hole of identity-based speculation is infinite (What if Walker is self-hating? What if he overcompensates? What if one of the lawyers looks like his ex-boyfriend who was a jerk, and he can't judge fairly because he hates that guy's face so much?) and pointless. We routinely ask judges to place the law above politics and emotion. As Queerty elegantly states, "Immutable characteristics do not disqualify a person from exercising justice."

Also, if you write a law that so offends an entire class of people that you cannot trust them ever to discuss it fairly, then perhaps there is something wrong with your law.

SF Chron: Being Gay a Nonissue During Prop. 8 Trial
SF Weekly: Chron Hardly 'Outed' Judge Vaughn Walker
Above the Law: Prop 8 Judge May be Gay: Does It Matter?
WSJ Law Blog: Prop. 8 Judge Reported Gay: What to Make of That?
SF Chron: Editorial: Gay Judge Has Proven Record of Impartiality
Queerty: Remember When the Gays Hated Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Waker?
[Pic via]