In a break with past practice on outing, the U.S. mainstream media decided in early August that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, is gay, openly gay or reportedly gay.
Walker has never publicly said if he’s gay or straight. In the past, U.S. mainstream media have avoided outing people who’ve chosen not to out themselves.
Most of the reports either attributed Walker’s alleged gayness to other mainstream reports or said it is common knowledge in certain San Francisco circles. Some reports flat-out called him “openly gay,” without attributing the assertion to any event or individual.
The Associated Press took the plunge on Aug. 6, writing: “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 New York Times wrote, “Several published reports have stated that the judge is himself gay.”
New York’s Daily News said, “The federal judge who upended California’s same-sex marriage ban this week is now being scrutinized by some for being gay himself.”
Fox News called Walker “one of three openly gay federal judges in the country,” and a CNN opinion piece called him “an openly gay federal judge.”
The Washington Post let a political analyst call Walker “openly gay.”
Anti-gay activists have suggested that Walker’s purported gayness means he shouldn’t have accepted the Prop 8 case, since it deals with whether marriage is only for straight people or also for gay people.
The anti-gay activists did not address the fact that a heterosexual judge would have found himself in an identical situation of ruling on an issue that is related to his or her sexual orientation.
Michelangelo Signorile, who has been credited with inventing outing when he was a columnist at New York’s defunct OutWeek magazine in 1989, said the Walker outing was “a testament to how easily the media is manipulated by the right into doing things about which editors and reporters claim to be staunchly opposed.”
He said the Walker reports amounted to “outrageous hypocrisy … on the part of the corporate media” because “even with proof and evidence, news organizations refuse to report on the secretly gay sexual orientation of conservative, anti-gay politicians and public figures when the argument for their exposure is made from the left.”