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Prop. 8 judge’s relationship at center of appeals court hearing

December 8, 2011 |  6:51 am

Judge Vaughn Walker

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Thursday on whether a trial judge’s decision to strike down Proposition 8 should be overturned because the jurist failed to disclose he was in a long-term same-sex relationship.

During a two-hour hearing starting at 2:30 p.m., a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also will hear arguments on whether to make public the videotapes of the nearly three-week trial that led then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker to decide California’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the federal constitution.

Backers of the 2008 initiative to bar gay marriage have appealed Walker’s ruling on constitutional grounds. The 9th Circuit has been examining that issue for a year and is expected to rule on it within weeks.

Thursday’s appeal involves a separate issue on whether Walker had a legal duty to disclose his 10-year relationship with another man. Walker is openly gay but did not publicly discuss his sexual orientation until after he retired earlier this year.

Chief U.S. District Judge James S. Ware, who replaced Walker, ruled that Walker had no obligation to reveal his same-sex relationship. In a separate decision, Ware said the videotapes of the Proposition 8 trial should be made public.

ProtectMarriage, a group representing backers of Proposition 8, appealed those rulings to the 9th Circuit.

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— Maura Dolan

Photo: Former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

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