Lloyd Graff’s New “Afterthought”

Judge Vaughn Walker is back in the news even though he retired from the Federal Bench in February. Judge Walker ruled that California’s Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, which meant that gay marriage was allowed in California because the language of the earlier Proposition 22 had made it legal in the state. An anti-gay rights group had recently argued that Walker should have recused himself from the case because he was in a gay relationship.

I had speculated that his would ultimately bubble up because I knew Vaughn was gay. Vaughn and I were close friends during out freshman and sophomore years at the University of Michigan. We both loved to talk politics and business. I visited him at his home in Watseka, Illinois, and met his parents, and he visited my home in Chicago.

After our first two years in Ann Arbor we went our separate ways. Vaughn was a dedicated student while I became Sports Editor of the Michigan Daily newspaper. Vaughn knew he was headed for a career in law and politics. I knew I loved writing and sports and women, so we moved in different circles.

I went back to Chicago after college while Vaughn headed for the Bay Area and Stanford Law. We connected sporadically by letter and phone and occasionally got together when I went to San Francisco on business.

About a dozen years ago Vaughn was in Chicago and called me to ask if we could have dinner—just the two of us. I happily agreed. We hadn’t seen each other in a decade. We met at a nice restaurant near the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We talked for a little while over drinks and then Vaughn told me that he was gay and had a huge crush on me when we were at the U of M. I almost fell out of my chair. It was no shock that he was gay, but learning about how he had felt about me during those first two years of college absolutely floored me. I felt incredibly naïve about my own naiveté. He told me he knew I was straight and his attraction toward me would never go anywhere.

We finished our dinner and I went home to my wife, Risa. I didn’t know how to process the news from Vaughn Walker, my old friend, but I decided to tell Risa about the conversation. We had a good talk and filed it away until last year when Vaughn got the case over Proposition 8.

I felt that I could not write about it at the time because Vaughn had chosen not to recuse himself. Could Judge Walker separate himself from the sexual politics of California to make the biggest judicial decision of his career? Knowing my brilliant incisive friend Vaughn as a student of law, I thought he could, but Vaughn had lived on the sexual political divide of politics and daily life for so long, how could he be impartial about an issue that cut to the quick of gay life in America?

Vaughn Walker, Federal Judge, ruled Prop 8 was unconstitutional, which I knew he would.

On June 13, his decision to not recuse himself was vindicated by his successor to the bench. Another big day in my friend’s career.

But for me personally, the memory of that dinner in Chicago is what lingers. Gays and straights, at least in my generation, still have a hard time being straight with one another.

Question: Is it possible to be impartial on an issue that hits home for you?

Judge Vaughn Walker's August 2010 ruling that California's Proposition 8 was unconstitutional was upheld by Judge James Ware on June 13, 2011.

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12 thoughts on “Lloyd Graff’s New “Afterthought”

  1. Jim

    Regardless of which sign of the fence your on, seems to me people should decide, not judges through agenda ridden philosophy’s. America is about people, not judges opinions. This is what makes America wrong in my viewpoint.

  2. Ken

    America is not wrong. It’s the highjacking of our voting process that is wrong. The courts are acting in place of the people. Get these people off the bench and put right thinking American’s in place and things would be much better. Never perfect.
    The homosexual subject is another discussion and one that American’s need to be honest about. So far it’s become a political forced upon us decision by calling those of us who oppose this lifestyle choice and making us out to be the bad guys. I’m not STRAIGHT I am a man. I am normal. I am correct and I don’t find having sex with another man to be normal or right and you cannot procreate and replentish the earth by doing it. But, you can bring on a horrible disease and spread it around the world by having sex outside normal Godly marriage. Man is destined for destruction and heading that way rapidly. Leave man to his own devices and he will kill everything around himself and that’s all that is happening with this lifestyle. Ask a cop and he will tell you what couples have the most fights.

  3. Jones

    If the judge in this case ruled the other way; and was later found to be a heterosexual catholic, would we have questioned his ability to be impartial? Would there have been a debate about whether he should have recused himself?

  4. Rob

    Yes the homosexual movement has become so strong that I am sure they would have filed suite about a straight judge ruling against them.

  5. Brian "Dwight" Hoff

    Hi Jones,
    Your response reminded me of all the folks I’ve encountered who measure a part, and if the reading is now what they wanted, question the gage. But there’s no question if the measurement was the one they were looking for. I believe in variation in all things. Part length, the height of my kids, the green of a leaf, and the cells in a brain that decide who / what we like. As to Lloyds question I’d have to say that no, I doubt I could be impartial on a huge topic that means a lot to me.

  6. Steve Horn

    It is a shamefull that any judge in this country would sit on a case where they could not be impartial. That is precisely why they have that ability to take themselves off cases. When a Judge does their job with partiality they are doing the whole of the country an injustice. We should be able to trust our Judges, but when they feel that they can write laws from the bench it is no wonder they are not respected as they once were.

  7. Valerie

    It’s really stupid to even question whether he is capable of being impartial on this subject. The job of a judge every day is to be impartial and look only at the facts and the law on each and every topic that comes in front of him. How could you possibly think this topic would be any different?

  8. Vicki

    I think I could be impartial, because there are specific rules to follow when making a decision like this. Laws set forth that must be upheld.
    As for the question of the legality of homosexual marriage, in whatever form, I find it fascinating that so many people think that morality and law are the same thing. They are not. Part of the reason for the separation of church and state is to prevent moral ideas from becoming law. The government has no place to legislate morality.

  9. Lloyd Graff

    A little more background on the legal career of Vaughn Walker. He was originally nominated for the Federal Bebnch by President Reagan but he was thwarted by the Democrats in Congress, specifically Nancy Pelosi who, ironically viewed him as anti-gay because he had argued against a Gay Olympics in his legal practice. His appointment was delayed until George Bush I became President.

  10. John Otto

    I have gay friends and friends with gay children and believe most people don’r really give a crap whether someone is gay, straight or bi-sexual. Most people in our society live by live and let live, and don’t ask don’t tell.

    Personally gay’s don’t offend me and I could care less if they’re married or not, but when their lifestyle is forced upon me by Hollywood constantly putting the gay snippet it seems in every movie; by Judges who in this case has a complete conflict of interest and certainly could not be expected to be impartial; and by a Government who gives gays preferential treatment in hiring and advancement, well let’s just say I’m not happy about it.

    With all our collective fractionalized agenda’s I feel the country is doomed. One for all and all for one is not in the US vernacular, and unless we all start pulling on the same end of the rope in this tug of war we call an economy, we can all forget about the American Dream.

    My evidence? http://www.usdebtclock.org/

  11. Noah Graff

    Hey Patrick,

    Guess we were bound to have some hatin, inbred, intolerant homophobes as readers too.

    Oh well. First amendment.

  12. Phil

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. All those that want to impose their way of life on others must then also allow others to impose on them. If you want to force all the gays to a straight way of life, then you better be prepared to be forced to live a gay way of life. If you say, I’d rather die than do that… well then, allow the gays the same option to be gay. This nation is founded on the fundamental principal of freedom of choice.
    Back in the day, blacks could not marry whites, drink at the same water fountain as whites or eat at the same food counter as whites. Could not even ride a bus in the same seats! It was easy to determine who was black and who was white. Its not as easy with gays. Generally not much outward appearance differences… but its still discrimination.
    A bigot is still a bigot. Does not matter what they want to hide behind….
    This judge did not make any new law, he simply upheld the existing ones. I for one do not want any ‘right minded person’ to make choices for me. Your rights end at the tip of your nose. If you don’t like what you see on the TV, turn it off or change the channel, I you don’t like what you hear on the radio, turn it off or change the station. As I saw on a T Shirt, If you don’t like my opinion, stop talking to me! We will both be a lot happier.
    Oh, I am a white, straight male. Like that should even matter…


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