Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Proposition 8, Judge Walker and our short memories

Vaughn Walker The political radar has been picking up bits of chaff about the Proposition 8 ruling and U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the gist of it being that, well, of course the judge supports same-sex marriage rights – he’s gay.

That kind of argument always reminds me of what happened to a reporter friend of mine, a woman who’d been covering some big political race for a newspaper in Texas, until the editor called her in and told her she was being pulled from the campaign. You see, he explained, both of the candidates are women, and you’re a woman, so that’s a conflict of interest.

Yep, absolutely spot-on logic there.

What makes it curiouser and curiouser is that gay-rights groups were livid when President Reagan nominated Walker to the federal bench in 1987 – and the Senate refused to confirm him. It wasn’t until President George H.W. Bush had a second run at the nomination that Walker was confirmed.

This is what Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights told my colleague Maura Dolan back in June, citing the judge's sexual orientation and his legal history as the Proposition 8 case's courtroom phase was wrapping up: "Vaughn Walker was in the center of it," Kendell said, "and from the gay community's perspective, on the wrong side."

"It" was the fact that Walker, years earlier, as an attorney, had represented the U.S. Olympic Committee (which is almost as vigilant as Disney about its brand) in a trademark lawsuit against the Gay Olympics.

That case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may be where Proposition 8 is ultimately headed, and you know what? Those "activist judges" sided with Walker, and the "Gay Olympics" lost.

And the other argument being put forward, that "majority rules" and because Proposition 8 won a majority of votes, those voters’ wishes are being violated by this ruling? Well, in the checks-and-balances system, the voters do not always have the last say.

In a precedent-setting legal exercise nearly 50 years ago, the California Legislature had passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination against ‘’colored’’ property renters or buyers. (Restrictive covenants about not selling to minorities were written into a number of deeds and real estate transactions.)

About 2/3 of California voters overturned the Rumford Act when they passed Proposition 14, which, like Proposition 8, had amended the California Constitution. Proposition 14 said Californians could indeed refuse to sell or rent to anyone for any reason. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 14 violated the 14th Amendment, and it didn’t matter if 100% of Californians had voted for it -- it was racial discrimination, and unconstitutional. The equal protection clause that Walker cited in his Proposition 8 ruling is part of that same 14th Amendment.

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Judge Vaughn R. Walker, speaking in 2006. Credit: AP Photo / San Francisco Daily Journal, S.Todd Rogers


Comments () | Archives (68)

The comments to this entry are closed.


And the fact that Mr. Walker is gay in no way affected his opinion. Yea right. Read the opinion, and you will see quite clearly that it did.


Roxanna, I assume you are straight. Does that in any way color your opinion? Is that why you are so reluctant to grant people who differ from you the right to marry, which you are free to enjoy?


Had the Prop 8 defense seen Walker's orientation as an issue, they could have filed a motion for recusal during the trial. Playing up Walker's orientation now is just a way to save face for their abysmal defense. The decision is solid. The religious right wants to distract from that fact by any means necessary.

Glenn Koons

Yes, he was appointed by Ronaldus but he Ronnie were alive, he would cite law not gay opinion on so called heterosexual marriage as being biased from the start. He did not use law but his view that 7 million people had no right because the judge thinks it is not rational to elevate marriage between a man and a woman. He does not use heritage, morality but the idea that for centuries all other people, groups, courts, nations were wrong but he is correct on his interpretation of the 14th Amend. It is time other lawyers , jurists speak out on this as well as the 9th Circus Court. We know how that will go and then we can only pray, the 5 votes on SCOTUS will overturn this prejudiced jurist's opinion. For that is what it was; opinion, not law.


I don't object to The Gay Community to marry. I reject the possibility that this is going to lead to more motherless sons and fathers daughters.

It's tragic that people fail to recognise the pain and suffering this is going to cause. I fear that ruined lives are going to grow exponentially out of this.

I won't be around to see it, but the backlash will be great when the next few generations takes power.

Emile Zola

I don't care how you slice it, gay marriage is not a human or civil rights issue. Just because more gays have come out of the closet doesn't mean that the dictionary should be changed for the feeling good of a minority. I do agree, however that they should be treated as civil unions with the same benefits given to married couples. As for religion. If homosexualism has been a sin since the pre-Christ era and that didn't change with Christ's coming and since religion is based only on faith, why "Christians" want to change something that can't be change, just because the GLBT community have more economical and political power doesn't make sense.


Interesting, Judge overturns the "will of the people" in California, outrage inssues, but a Judge overturns the "will of the people" in Arizona and it is applauded

Mitch Owens

Roxanna, Would you then want male judges to recuse themselves from any case in which men are involved (ie child custody matters, divorce, etc) just because he might be married or have been divorced? Or demand that a woman judge recuse herself from any case in which women are involved? Your logic is amazing. Actually if you read the ruling thoroughly you'd see Judge Walker has been scrupulously fair and filled his decision with footnotes and references in a manner unlike many judges, basing his ruling on legal precedence. You might want to read the ruling carefully, with your mind open rather than closed, and then follow it up with Dahlia Lithwick's analysis of the ruling at http://www.slate.com/id/2262766.

Mitch Owens

Glenn Koons, Did you read the last paragraph of the article re overturning voters' preferences when discrimination was involved? "About 2/3 of California voters overturned the Rumford Act when they passed Proposition 14, which, like Proposition 8, had amended the California Constitution. Proposition 14 said Californians could indeed refuse to sell or rent to anyone for any reason. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 14 violated the 14th Amendment, and it didn’t matter if 100% of Californians had voted for it -- it was racial discrimination, and unconstitutional. The equal protection clause that Walker cited in his Proposition 8 ruling is part of that same 14th Amendment."


This is tyranny. Nothing Less. This is the imposition of a corrupt moral and ethical code, by the minority, that has done nothing except destroy the fabric of justice.

We have seen this is Arizona, and now we see it in San Francisco.

It will not stand.

Diligent Reader

First, it is great to see Pat Morrison writing op-ed pieces again instead of the Saturday edition interviews she has seemingly been stuck with this past year. Bravo, a good change at the Times for once.
I have to agree with Morrison's logic. The majority does not possess any natural right to enforce discriminatory laws against any minority, no matter how offensive to some that minority is. I think this logic will ultimately win the day as the case makes it's way up the appeals process. Our understanding of our rights has increased with time and this is a part of that progression.


Emile Zola, that is clear "separate but equal". Are you also in favor of sending black children to a different school, that has all of the same facilities but we can call it a "black school", while the white kids can go to the "white school" because they were the first ones to have a legal right to go to school? Do you see the parallel?

Jere Krischel

The fact that Judge Walker is gay lent particular credibility to his opinion - that he was able to remain dispassionate and rational in the face of testimony that essentially stated flatly that he was a child molester who would corrupt society is a testament to his judicial temperament. Any honest reading of the opinion would admit a well thought out, logical and neutral judgement.

I would challenge any radical social conservative to write as lucidly and dispassionately about the facts and the inevitable conclusions of law - it appears the two witnesses brought forth by the proponents were more about hand waving and demagoguery than actual rational insight.


As a gay man living with a partner for 12 years I say with joy - What a great day it is today! In the end, tradition and the moral beliefs of one group are not enough a compelling enough reason to deny another group their civil rights.
Read this beautiful article written by TV host Rene Syler where she compares it with the struggles of her African American heritage. http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2010/08/proposition-8-good-enough-mothers-take/

Mitchell Young

Actually, the Rumford Act took away the liberty of people to sell or rent their property to whom they wished. Proposition 14 restored that liberty -- and contrary to this post, had nothing to do with restrictive covenants. The proposition was found 'unconstitutional' by the narrowest of margins, 5-4, at the height of 1960s judicial activism.


Clearly, Judge Walker ruled against Gay Olympics in anticipation of incorporating openly gay athletes into the mainstream Olympics, i.e. along with giving countries for each athlete, the idea would be to also give sexual preference. This would have a more mainstream effect and not be a "separate entity" but rather "equal."

I think the defense shot itself in the foot. They could / should have objected to this judge based on conflict of interest.


Ok, fine, let's say that there's a conflict of interest that exists with a gay judge but not a straight judge. That means that opposite marriage isn't harmed by same-sex marriage.


The case was about the constitionality of a law, citing another law somewhere else is asinine, he had to decide on what is and what is not constitutional, not rule on whether an event was within a law ! The article really indicates that he has opposed some "gay" issues. It does not disclose any orientation. But I suppose that is what the consitution creating equality means. Not just for some but for all- actually a pretty good idea. It's the Constitution stupid!


I find it rather arrogant of anti-gay heterosexuals who seem to be under the impression that their right to vote includes a right to harm law-abiding citizens with that vote.

They will claim, 'what happened to democracy?'

I will tell them, they are witnessing it.

Rev. John Williams


You people are so wicked but God told me to tell you that hell will be your home
It don't mean anything now but pay day is coming soon
To practice homosexuality or lesbianism is an abomination to God. It is detestable to Him. In the Old Testament, the judgment for such behavior was death. Their blood was on their own heads. God clearly and unmistakably warns us in His Word not to do this. It is written: Lev 18:22-THOU SHALT NOT LIE WITH MANKIND, AS WITH WOMANKIND: IT IS ABOMINATION. Lev 18:22-"'DO NOT LIE WITH A MAN AS ONE LIES WITH A WOMAN; THAT IS DETESTABLE ." (NIV) Lev 20:13-"'IF A MAN LIES WITH A MAN AS ONE LIES WITH A WOMAN, BOTH OF THEM HAVE DONE WHAT IS DETESTABLE. THEY MUST BE PUT TO DEATH; THEIR BLOOD WILL BE ON THEIR OWN HEADS." (NIV)
In Judges, men having sex with men is clearly shown to be wicked and disgraceful.
God clearly and unmistakably shows in Romans that those who practice homosexuality and lesbianism are worthy of death. They shall surely perish unless they repent. It is written:

Rev. John Williams


Prop 8 did not prevent anyone from marrying. It merely defined what marriage is. Not a single person has ever been prevented from marrying because of prop 8.

Michael Hedges

Rev. John Williams -

Read your post and as a gay man I do need some advice from you,regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go
to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging


I have a question for all the straight people out there. What if someone told you you couldn't get married? You aren't allowed, because they don't think you loving someone is okay? Or is against god?

There are people in the world that I honestly dont think should be allowed to get married. Like people in prison. =) but that's a whole other story.

I'm straight. I'm happily living with my boyfriend and my son. We have no plans to get married. But if someone told me I wasn't allowed to marry him, I'd be extremely PO'd. It's my right and my choice to love someone if I feel like it, and marry someone if I want to.

Gay people just want to live their lives. I don't see anything wrong with that.


If he couldn't be unbiased because he's gay, how could he be unbiased if he was straight? If the proponents of Prop 8 argue that it's about raising children (it isn't) then you would have to test the judge to be sure he/she is fertile and capable of biologically having children. And, obviously, if anybody is uncapable of biologically having children, they should not be allowed to be married.

Bryan Upton

Let me express my ambivalence regarding the issue as a whole! Little of this matters because the issue of gay marriage, like virtually all issues of major substance are eventually decided by the Supreme court. It's just a matter of the arguments on both sides crystallizing into a case format that the court will accept for hearing. This would be only a single case - it will likely take more than one case for the issue to be fully hashed out by the courts in a broad enough way to more or less settle the issue long term. In the meantime there will continue to be plenty of back and forth with "victories" claimed on both sides. Wake me when the various government agencies adopt policies formulated around what the courts decide! It can be interesting to hear the justices' rationales when they issue rulings though!


Why is it that in some states a heterosexual couple can live "in sin" (for usually seven years) and then are considered legally married? AWARDED marriage for living in sin. Now, in California, one cannot create a common-law marriage, but the state fully recognizes a common-law marriage created in another state. So why is it acceptable for California to recognize a common-law marriage created in another state that was created simply for living "in sin" for seven years???


Aha I figured as much in my comments yesterday, but now it's confirmed ! He should be removed from the bench for unfairly supporting something in conflict with his personal life ! Homsexuality in any way, shape or form is an abomination to teh American way of life and it sends all the wrong messages to the young. Too many gays in the media and showbiz work diligently to attempt to normalizze something which to most folk is repulsive in every sense of the word !


Aha I figured as much in my comments yesterday, but now it's confirmed ! He should be removed from the bench for unfairly supporting something in conflict with his personal life ! Homsexuality in any way, shape or form is an abomination to teh American way of life and it sends all the wrong messages to the young. Too many gays in the media and showbiz work diligently to attempt to normalizze something which to most folk is repulsive in every sense of the word !


Thank god for freedom from religion.

Dan Rains

Well, if he were straight, then he would have been biased in favor of Prop 8, right?

The bottom line is that the proponents of Proposition Hate could state NO RATIONAL BASIS for the people to take away the right of marriage from a man who happens to wants to marry a man. The proponents could not articulate ONE FACT showing that a man marrying another man harms society.

Look at it this way: were the people of California to vote tomorrow to take away the right of voting from black people, could they state any RATIONAL basis for taking away this right? No - only if you believe that black people are INHERENTLY harmful to California could you say that you have a RATIONAL basis for taking away their voting rights.


I am very happy that other gays and lesbians now have the ability to marry! Having been married to my husband for almost two years, I can say with all honesty that I love being married. It gives me great peace and joy to be married and I thank God daily for giving me that opportunity. We married on our 8th anniversary of being together, so we are coming up on our 2nd/10th anniversary. I think I am more in love every day.

Marriage for all! Equal Rights for all!


Roxanna, do you think straight judges will approve the ban on gay marriage? do you think they are affected by their sexual orientation,too?


Funny how un-christian so many so-called christians are. Jesus would be so proud of all the hate you are spewing (and guessing most of these mean comments are coming from people who have never committed any sins, otherwise why would they be throwing stones?).Never mind how uncompassionate and unforgiving most people are. Keep up the good work of saying you're a christian without having to act like a christian!


I love that quote from Leviticus, Rev. Williams ... I guess I can have all the hot lesbian sex that I want without repercussion. Now that we have you over half your bigotry, can you please engage your cerebrum and overcome the other half of your bigotry?

I pay taxes, sir. You don't. Maybe you should sit out any discussion by the paying grownups at society's table.


To say Judge Walker is biased because it's assumed he is gay is to say a white person cannot be non biased against another white person, an African American, Latino, or any other race cannot be a judge to the same race, that a woman cannot be non biased against another woman. All of which we know is untrue. He made his ruling based on what was presented in the trial. He didn't just make it up.


One way to solve the problem----DO AWAY WITH MARRIAGE!!!


Um, if he was hetrosexual, wouldn't that be a conflict too?

R U Joking?!

The Constitution? Really? It doesn't mention marriage, & specifically delegates powers not assigned to the Fed's to the states.

Equal protection? Ha ha ha!!! For whom? Homosexual marriage, maybe, but polygamists, beastiophiles, necrophiles (not illegal in CA), incest practitioners & more? Heck no!!! Those are sick perversions like homosexu...er...um...you know. No equal protection for white men, either, affirmative action bigotry has been the law of the land 40+ years now.

Check the Constitution that Congress declare war (not since 1945), avoid unreasonable search & seizure (no warrant NSA e-mail intercepts, wiretaps, data mining, profiling, etc), keep all US money in gold (ha ha ha), habeous corpus (unless the fed's want to jail you for no charge) & to delegate powers to the states not otherwise mentioned, like health insurance.

No, that judge simply walked right past the Constitution he didn't like, to selectively enforce it the way he wants, like the Fed's do every day. With the LA Times cheerleading behind their abuse of democracy.


i am surely confufsed: i have been mistakenly told a judge cannot "hear" a legal action in which said judge has a PERSONAL interest. i guess with laws passed recently, this restriction on jurists in perferated docus for the outhouse. any homosexual is certain to have an interest. just ask billybob clinton about sexual definitions, matter of fact, maybe b.c. should be appionted by obama as a "special master" to re-hear the matter????

David in Houston

If the Constitution doesn't apply to marriage, then why do opposite-sex couples have the right to marry? Where did they get that legal right?

Why did the Supreme Court have the authority to overturn the "will of the people" when it came to interracial marriage? 70% of the public was against interracial marriage. Was the court wrong to overrule the public?

Why does our government subsidize marriage, if it's solely a state's rights issue?

The Supreme Court has already said that "marriage is a fundamental right of man". They didn't add, "...except for gay citizens."

Darren Shupe

Michael Hedges, I just gotta tell you that your post made my day. Thanks for it.

As for the issue in general... why is there even a discussion about this? Isn't it obvious that everyone should have the right to marry whom they love?

Judge Walker's opinion was masterful, and a model of legal scholarship. Let's hope it stands, and that we don't have to revisit this "issue" again.


Carly Fiorina did herself no favor yesterday by saying that the people of California had clearly spoken about this in 2008 (and 52% is hardly "clearly"). Would she have said the same thing about Prop 14 nearly 50 years ago? Under her logic, yes.

It seems like a pathetic attempt to connect with some base she feels a need to connect with, but it could lead one to question whether she understands how our government works. At least Meg Whitman had the honestly to just point to the "icky" factor and say that she thinks marriage gets to be a special club for just the boys and girls. I don't know that either of them truly believes this, but I think they're pandering to the right in both cases.

Tim Gordon

I don't understand how it could be unconstitutional to recognize the difference between male and female, which seems to be the essence of the ruling. If this is true then it is unconstitutional to have separate bathrooms or other facilities for men and women.

One Citizen

Strip away all the hype and the REAL issue is that gays want to be "accepted" into the norm. As civil partners, they get all the "rights" that married people do; they just want to redefine the word "marriage" to fit their lifestyle. The PEOPLE in Calif. have been drug all through this before. Walker didn't rule on the "rights" of gays to be "married", he ruled on the courts "rights" to re-define words to fit their idology. The same way the Calif. liberal courts/legislature has redefined "male" and "female" to not be the biological distinction; but to how individuals "perceive" themselves. And now the Feds are undermining States RIGHTS in the same manner. Will AMERICANS accept being TOLD what to DO and THINK by the Federal TYRANNY?


Judge Walker stands to personally benefit from his own ruling. Do I detect a mistrial?


I am a single widowed father of a toddler girl.
She has one parent now, in our families case a father. Does she now have a ruined life?
I take offense to the defense that a family lacking a "mother" or a "father" is a ruined life.
I also take offense to the idea that a two father family will ruin lives. I would love to have my deceased wife back and be able to raise my daughter with her, but life is hard.

The children that you need to worry about are those with no parents, incapable parents, or abusive parents. Loving caring parents, parent, or caregivers is whats important for children, not the 1950's determined vision of a family unit.

I think two women, two men, a man and a woman, just a man, or just a woman are all capable of loving, nurturing, and raising children. And to slight parents because they are not the traditional 1950's family unit is a slight to me, a single parent trying his best to do right for his child.

Additionally, in this society of divorce, how many children actually live in the same home as both of their biological parents?

Ban divorce that splits up families before trying to prevent loving couples from raising a child together, if you are worried about the children.



The problem is unless you can find a sexless judge, you can make a claim for a bias by any judge.

Your logic dictates that there cannot be a black judge that hears a racial discrimination case, or that a woman judge cannot hear a case involving women, or straight judges shouldn't rule on the rights of straights?

Please help me understand your point of view by finishing this sentence.

Allowing gays and lesbians to get married violates my rights as an American citizen because...


In re all the folks saying that a straight judge would also need to recuse him or herself.. that would only be true if the Prop 8 supporters were right.

If we are to believe the h8ters, straight marriages are adversely affected by state-recognized same-sex marriages. But since they didn't bother to offer factual basis for their claims, we have no reason to believe a straight judge would have anything to gain (or lose) by ruling on Prop 8. Since I "refudiate" the h8ters, and don't think any straight person will be negatively impacted by same-sex marriages, I see no reason for a straight judge to recuse himself in the future.

Now if hellfire will indubitably rain down on America if Walker's decision stands (as Rev. Williams suggests) perhaps Scalia should recuse himself, as he clearly has much to gain by ruling against marriage equality? At the very least, doesn't he have a crown, and Crystal Sea-side a mansion, waiting for him behind the Pearly Gates if only he refudiates the gays?

John N.

You people are so wicked but God told me to tell you that hell will be your home"

That's certainly your right to believe; and regardless of what anyone says, thanks to the First Amendment, your right to believe and even say it won't be taken away.

But God has also granted us free will, to make our own decisions as to how to live our lives.

And America has granted is freedom of religion, so we can each follow our own beliefs in how to live our lives. Many educated clergy have studied the scripture carefully and come away with the belief that a loving, dedicated relationship between two men or two women is not sinful. And some people are not Christian and don't follow the Bible or believe in God. Until we get a giant while-you-were-out memo signed by God himself with the clear, definitive answer, their interpretation is just valid as yours.

If you don't like gays, then don't be friends with any of them, don't officiate over any same-sex weddings, and don't get yourself married to another dude. (All those are still and always will be within your rights.) But don't force your beliefs on everyone else. Don't take away our god-given free will. Don't legislate your own morality on people who happen to believe differently than you.

Frank Leon

What is the point of this?

1 2 | »



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...