Vaughn Walker, the Republican-appointed judge loathed in the LGBT community for much of his career
-- who went on to strike down California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8
-- has announced he's hanging up his robes
Walker will give up the mantle of chief judge of the San Francisco-based federal district court on the last day of the year; he'll retire altogether in February.
That's when bidding should start for Walker's life story. The stately jurist's memoirs -- capped by the powerhouse ruling in the Prop. 8 trial -- should be a riveting read.
The sexuality of the judge who may have engineered the ability of gays and lesbians to wed remains ambiguous. By the time a Chronicle article commented on his supposed homosexuality, that subject was considered an open secret.
That Walker's appointment to the federal bench was held up two years due to complaints from Nancy Pelosi and other house Democrats that he was insensitive to homosexuals is, with hindsight, even more baffling. In retrospect, it's hard to determine which George H.W. Bush judicial appointee presented the bigger surprise: David Souter's liberality or Vaughn Walker's sexuality.
Walker's legal career will be remembered for a variety of reasons by legal experts. But his Prop. 8 decision -- which victorious lawyer Ted Olson predicted would be taught in law schools
-- will stand as the Sistine Chapel ceiling of his career.
If you haven't read the 136-page ruling, read it here
. It's worth it. Not only is it a crushing demonstration of logic triumphing over illogic -- and, admittedly, a page-turner -- it's also a legal masterpiece
.Walker structured his ruling in such a way that gay marriage foes will have an exceedingly hard time overturning his decision. Should they attempt to appeal to the Supreme Court, he just happens to cite swing Justice Anthony Kennedy 15 times
. If your humble narrator were a betting man, he'd lay down odds that Walker's contention that Prop. 8 foes don't have legal standing to mount a case will be seconded by the Court of Appeal in December. Rather than risk invalidating same-sex marriage bans nationwide, there's a good chance Prop. 8 opponents will simply take their lumps and concede California.
So, who knows what Walker has planned for 2011. A marriage, perhaps?
Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF