Among the tidbits that coming out from Jo Becker’s new book on marriage equality, “Forcing the Spring,” is this one: the federal judge who struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional once underwent therapy to cure himself of being gay.
Vaughn Walker only came out as gay after he formally retired from the bench, but it was an open secret that he was gay while he was hearing the Prop 8 case. What no one knew apparently is that Walker’s long journey as a gay man included trying to rid himself of his feelings. In Becker’s book, Walker recounts how in the late 1970s, when he was in his 30s, he chose “to see a psychiatrist about my … affliction.”
Ultimately, the shrink declared Walker cured because he had never had sex with another man. Walker says he “badly wanted to believe it was true,” in no small part because of the harm being gay might meant to his career. Walker continued to date women and only entered into his first relationship with a man when he was in his late 30s.
Walker’s therapy sessions came back to him during the Prop 8 trial when Ryan Kendall testified about having to undergo conversion therapy as a 14-year-old, finally running away from home and struggling with depression for a decade. Kendall testified as evidence that sexual orientation is immutable. Walker says that the testimony was “the most touching” of the trial.
Needless to say, Walker has been vilified for anti-marriage forces for not recusing himself from the Prop 8 trial. Walker dismissed the complaints as unfounded. African American judges hear race discrimination cases all the time, while female judges hear cases charging gender bias,” he says. “Why shouldn’t a gay man hear the challenge to Prop. 8?”