Gay judge never thought to drop marriage case

Wed Apr 6, 2011 7:39pm EDT
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (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's comments were his first on what legal observers have been been intensely -- but quietly -- discussing since the blockbuster case was filed. Some wondered whether his sexual orientation would affect his decision and how it would be received.

However the group defending California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, refrained from raising the issue in court. Walker eventually struck down Prop 8 as unconstitutional, and the case is currently on appeal.

The Republican-nominated judge, who had a stormy history with the local gay community, calmly controlled his courtroom during the trial, adding dollops of humor as well.

The case could set national policy if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court and is being watched throughout the nation, where same-sex marriage is legal in only five of 50 states.

Gay rights advocates won a major victory late last year when a ban on gays serving in the U.S. military was overturned in Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Walker retired at the end of February, and he talked with a handful of reporters about issues like the Prop 8 case, cameras in the court, and his once-strained relationship with San Francisco's gay community.

It would not be appropriate for any judge's sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin or gender to stop them from presiding over a case, he said.   Continued...

<p>Former chief judge of the United States District Court Vaughn R. Walker speaks at a news conference about his past and future at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California, on April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach</p>