April 6, 2011 / 8:01 PM / 8 years ago

Gay judge never considered dropping Prop 8 case

SAN FRANCISCO, April 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. judge who struck down California’s gay marriage ban never considered his own homosexuality as a reason to recuse himself from the case, he said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who retired from the bench at the end of February, said it would not be appropriate for any judge’s sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin or gender to stop them from presiding over a case.

“That’s a very slippery slope,” Walker said.

The talk to a handful of reporters was Walker’s first public comments to reporters about presiding over the lawsuit challenging to Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. Walker struck down the ban as unconstitutional, and the case is currently on appeal.

It was also the first time Walker publicly acknowledged his own sexual orientation. Walker said he has been in a relationship with the man for 10 years. “He is a physician,” Walker said.

Walker is a Midwesterner, born in 1944 in Watseka, Illinois, about 90 miles (145 km) south of Chicago. He worked for years at one of San Francisco’s top law firms before being nominated to the federal bench in 1989 by George H.W. Bush.

He made for an unpredictable jurist, ruling against the government in a widely watched state secrets case. In another matter that has become lore at the San Francisco federal courthouse, Walker sentenced a mail thief to stand outside a post office, carrying a sign with the words: “I stole mail. This is my punishment.”

Walker served as chief judge in the Northern District of California for six years before retiring in February. He said he has launched his own practice focusing on alternative dispute resolution.

Reporting by Dan Levine, editing by Peter Henderson and Sandra Maler

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