Friday, August 06, 2010

Did the AP Out Prop 8 Judge as Gay?

(May 18, 2010, Vaughn Walker, right, with his platonic pal Brett Andrews, in a Castro-area restaurant. Photo credit: Petrelis Files.)

In ancient gay times, that being the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I was involved in outing campaigns against closeted gay politicians, I had to engage in hard pressure with the gay and mainstream press to report on the closeted sexual orientation of the targeted politician. Now, I have phone conversation with reporters who've been assigned to cover the speculation of an important judge, and needless to say, I like this kind of change.

Lisa Leff, a longtime journalist with the Associated Press in San Francisco, and a reader of this blog, had me on the phone yesterday, asking questions about my post last summer in which I mentioned how Judge Vaughn Walker registered on my gaydar. She also wanted details about seeing him in a gay restaurant in the Castro, with a platonic and openly gay friend, back in May, and snapping photos of Walker and his buddy in the restaurant.

The AP wire this morning put out Leff's story, raising many issues that needed addressing, in a mainstream news story, starting with the rumors of Walker's gayness:

But after Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the voter-approved ban known as Proposition 8, he became something else in the minds of some: a gay activist.

Rumors have circulated for months that Walker is gay, fueled by the blogosphere and a San Francisco Chronicle column that stated his sexual orientation was an "open secret" in legal and gay activism circles.

Walker himself hasn't addressed the speculation, and he did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press on Thursday. [...]

The AP informs me of something I didn't know, since I don't visit Fox News web sites:

Gerard Bradley, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, published a Fox News column in the hours before Walker filed his opinion faulting the media for not forcing Walker to address if he had a personal interest in the outcome of the case. [...]

And how did the speculation begin?

The Walker rumors got started last summer after Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco blogger and AIDS activist, wrote a post saying the judge's demeanor had triggered his "gaydar." In May, Petrelis snapped a picture of Walker having dinner with the head of a local AIDS organization at a restaurant in the city's predominantly gay Castro District.

Like many others, Petrelis interprets Walker's silence on the subject after the Chronicle's February column appeared to mean that the "open secret" is no longer a secret.

"I wouldn't say he is openly gay, but no denial, no statement no nothing after that appeared I think said to a lot of us, 'Yeah, he is gay and doesn't mind being called gay by the leading newspaper in town,'" Petrelis said. [...]

This may sound like a contradiction, but I believe Walker is openly closeted. That is the term I used for former GOP Congressman Steve Gunderson, back when he was still a Representative, closeted, but going to DC-area gay bars with his boyfriend, and not denying his gayness.

One day, we will see jurists like Walker, and California state Supreme Court justice Carol Corrigan, also just-confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court Elena Kagan, serving on the bench as openly out gay and lesbian jurists, and it will be no big deal.

The AP and Lisa Leff have not outed Walker. He has outed himself, over many years.

1 comment:

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Openly closeted"? Possibly. But as you know Michael he's being attacked by the phobes for being gay, and they're claiming his ruling is invalid because of this.
No one has risen to that bait so far. As a judge Walker cannot -- and does not -- inject himself personally inot any case. Each case must be judged on its merits. Walker most certainly did that in this case. I trust you've read it thoroughly. it's quite breathtaking.