Book: Prop 8 Judge Went Through Unsuccessful Gay Conversion Therapy

Book: Prop 8 Judge Went Through Unsuccessful Gay Conversion Therapy

The gay federal judge in California who ruled that Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was unconstitutional in 2010 reportedly went through unsuccessful gay conversion therapy more than 30 years ago. 

Trial judge Vaughn Walker was the first judge to rule that a state law against gay marriage was unconstitutional, and he came out of the closet more than a year later after he retired from the bench. 

In the upcoming book, Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, New York Times reporter Jo Becker interviewed Walker and revealed that “he had never had a relationship with a man, knew that an acknowledgment of homosexuality would hurt his career and decided ‘to see a psychiatrist about my… affliction'” three decades ago. 

According to an account in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Becker writes that Walker told her the psychiatrist — after some counseling that Walker no longer remembers in any detail — ultimately determined he was not actually gay because he had not yet had sex with a man.”

In the Prop. 8 trial, 26-year-old Ryan Kendall of Denver testified about how his parents put him through gay conversation therapy, which is now banned in California. As the Chronicle noted, “gay rights advocates presented Kendall’s testimony as evidence that sexual orientation is important to one’s personal identity, and to counter opposing arguments that it is changeable and thus unworthy of constitutional protection.”

Walker said that he had “faux romances” with women and “entered his first relationship with a man in his late 30s” but did not come out until he retired. Walker was accused of being biased from the bench, but the book notes that he concluded that his presiding over the case was no different from a woman presiding over a gender discrimination case. The Chronicle noted that that was the same reasoning a federal appellate court used when “they found no grounds to disqualify him.”

“African American judges hear race discrimination cases all the time, while female judges hear cases charging gender bias… Why shouldn’t a gay man hear the challenge to Prop. 8?” the book reportedly quotes Walker as asking. 

Walker’s ruling eventually led to the Supreme Court decision that allowed gay marriages in California to resume.