walkerThe trial that began the long process of repealing the unconstitutional Proposition 8 in California was notable for many reasons, among them testimony about the deep, personal harm caused by “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy. A new book by Jo Becker, Forcing The Spring:  Inside The Fight For Marriage Equality, reveals that Prop 8 judge Vaughn Walker, now retired, underwent very similar therapy long before coming out as an openly gay man in 2011:

“Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality” describes Walker blinking back tears as he listened to the man’s testimony in 2010, recalling the therapy he had undergone three decades earlier to try to unsnarl uncertainties about his own sexual orientation – but it was a nightmare not revealed publicly until now.


In the late 1970s, when he was a lawyer in his early 30s, Walker says in the book, 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.”

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.

“And he pronounced me cured,” recalled Walker – who “wanted badly to believe that was true,” the book says.

Walker never had a relationship with a man until his late thirties, according to the book. Also discussed is the fact that, when Walker did come out, many on the religious right suggested that he, as a gay man, wasn’t qualified to rule on such a case, an accusation as vapid now as it was then:

“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?” Becker quotes Walker as asking. Federal appellate courts used the same reasoning when they found no grounds to disqualify him.

Perhaps the illogic of those accusations is in even sharper focus this week, as the lawyer who argued for Proposition 8, Charles Cooper, has revealed that his own earlier feelings on marriage equality are changing, as his daughter, who is a lesbian, is currently planning her own wedding, with her parents’ full support:

The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country’s rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favor of allowing the unions.

Cooper learned that his stepdaughter Ashley was gay as the Proposition 8 case wound its way through appellate court, according to a forthcoming book about the lengthy legal battle. And with the Supreme Court ruling now behind him, Cooper cast his personal opinion on gay marriage as an evolving process.

“My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago,” Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker’s book “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.”

People so often evolve on this issue when they realize that it’s the only way to be “pro-family” in the true sense of the word.