Judge Vaughn Walker Is Leaving 9th Circuit, Following Exits By Prominent Gay Marriage Justices


Judge Vaughn Walker, who’s ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger could possibly strike down same-sex marriage bans across the country, will retire from the Ninth Circuit next year he says in a letter to President Obama. He’ll end his tenure as the court’s chief judge (a post he assumed in 2004) on Dec. 31 and would fully step down from the bench in February. The move follows the retirement of Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who in 2008 wrote the deciding opinion legalizing marriage equality in the state, and the retirement of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George, who legalized same-sex marriage in 2008 but upheld Prop 8 months later. Let’s hope Walker is around long enough to see the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals laugh at the 134-page attack on his character.

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  • Peter

    Judge Walker isn’t in the Ninth Circuit. He’s the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The Ninth Circuit is one level higher.

  • Marcus

    Sorry — the grammar police have arrived. “Whose” is the word you’re looking for. “Who’s” is a contraction.

  • Cung Vo

    From now on, we can complaint Christian Judges bias too.

  • ForeverGay

    Profiles in courage. NOT! Have you noticed how many famous gay people, in this case a closted gay judge who made a landmark decision for gay people, acknowledge their homosexuality publicly only to bail on us shortly after or how they do it when they are long past their prime? Gay people don’t get to be apart of their successes because they don’t acknowledge their homosexuality early enough. Gay people like Matt Mitcham, who came out before the 2008 Olympics and won gold, are so rare. Or like Ellen DeGeneres who fought back against the anti-gay assault on her and is more famous than ever.

  • John (CA)

    A person can reach the pinnacle of the federal judiciary as an openly gay judge.

    Just not in America.

    Mr. Justice Edwin Cameron – now a member of the South African Constitutional Court (i.e. Supreme Court) – has been openly gay since President Nelson Mandela appointed him to the bench in 1994. Although he didn’t “come out” as HIV positive until 1998. He was the appellate court judge who wrote the decision striking down the ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in 2004. As is the case with Judge Walker now, anti-gay Christians and homophobic MPs in South Africa threw a hissy fit about Cameron’s refusal to recuse himself from the case.

    It apparently hasn’t hurt his career.

    What an absurd state of affairs we find ourselves in the self-proclaimed “Land of the Free.”

  • Brutus

    @John (CA): Considering South Africa’s 1996 Constitution explicitly provides for equality based on sexual orientation, there’s less room for criticism of such an opinion. Not to take away from Justice Cameron; just adding information that may explain part of the difference.

  • John (CA)

    @Brutus: @Brutus: It certainly helps when the constitution says sexual orientation is a suspect class. But constitutions are theoretical constructs that require a good deal of effort to implement.

    A dismissive judge simply won’t apply the level of scrutiny he or she should.

    The trial court judge in Pretoria who first heard the case that ultimately ended up in Cameron’s lap – Judge Roux – stated that: “In Roman law, marriage is the full legal union of man and woman for the purpose of lifelong mutual companionship… Nothing I am aware of has changed since. Indeed the Marriage Act 25 of 1961 mirrors the age old concept of what a marriage is.” He then went on to call the concept of same-sex marriage biologically “still-born,” that there’s “obviously” no constitutional right to marriage, and told the plaintiffs to pay the government’s court costs. Sounds like one of those unpleasant, old-school leftovers from the apartheid era.

    Law is a process that involves humans. That is why it is imperative that we recruit and retain good judges. I have no idea who Vaughn Walker is personally. But I certainly hope he isn’t leaving because of the pressure over Perry v Schwarzenegger.

  • Peter


    Judge Walker should be congratulated on his distinguished career, one that made gays proud, and especially for his recent decision.

    Can’t a man retire when he is over 65, like most people do?

    BY the way, when Walker was your age, people in all professions were being fired SIMPLY for being gay. It happens much less today, but it is totally unfair to criticize some one of his generation of not being big time out since kindergarten. You have no idea what life was like in the ‘ 50’s , ’60’s, and ’70’s, with people just trying to survive. Even today, the news is full of young gay suicides because of the societal shame and pressure. Think what it was like three, four, five decades ago. By the way, it was that generation that got the gay rights ball rolling so that you can sit around shopping malls and bitch into your I-phone about how people aren’t out their working themselves into the grave for your right to be a flamer. Just what have you done personally, how much money are you REALLY contributing to gay rights organizations? Just because you are a little busy mastering the art of bitchiness does not make you a gay rights worker.

  • S


    Forever Gay, please consider that Walker may be receiving death threats. If nothing else, I suspect that there are a lot of folks out there who have made harassing him a very high priority in their lives.

    I need to add, for the benefit of those who are not aware, that retired federal judges often continue to serve as “senior” judges in their retirements. Perhaps when the initial backlash has blown over, we will see Judge Walker again.

    In any event, I am grateful that he took the opportunity to write a strong and virtually bullet proof opinion (although it helped that the plaintiffs did not present any credible evidence whatsoever). While that wouldn’t stop “Justice” Scalia from ignoring reality and substituting his own version, Judge Walker has done everything within his power to speak for equality, justice, and the REAL US constitution.

    Walker’s opinion is likely to become historical, something pretty rare for a trial court.

  • ait10101

    @John (CA):

    The US isn’t “land of the free”. SA, where I live, past the US in 1994. The US may have been “land of the free” some time ago, but it is resting on its (deserved) laurels. It has a lot of catchup to do before it realizes the ideals of its nonChristian deist Founders.

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