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Brett Andrews, left, Vaughn Walker, right

What happens when noted activist, blogger and Appeal pal Michael Petrelis stumbles across the man responsible for deciding if gay folks have the right to marry? How about we just let him tell you in his own words? — EB

I was walking past 2223, a Castro District restaurant, at around 7 pm Monday night, when I spotted a bald attractive man at a table up against the Market Street facing window. Turned out to be Brett Andrews, the executive director of the Positive Resource Center, an AIDS org providing employment and benefits counseling.

Seated opposite him was a white-haired older gentleman, who I instantly realized was none other than Vaughn Walker, the federal judge hearing the Prop 8 gay marriage case. I was momentarily stunned to see him in a social setting, enjoying drinks and laughs at the elegant 2223 restaurant.

But I got over that, pulled my camera out of my pocket, and snapped some photos. I detected no hostility from either man, and went in to say hello and introduce myself to Walker.

The other people in the restaurant who watched me taking photos, seemed nervous as I entered with my enormous “Global Gay Solidarity” poster, a megaphone with Queer Power stickers all over it, and a “Silence = Death” button on my jacket collar. I was so dressed and prop-laden because I been at the IDAHO kiss-in at Harvey Milk Plaza earlier and was heading home after a fabulous action.

With a smile on my face, I approached their table, nodded acknowledgment to Brett, then extended my right hand to Walker, who was grinning and quite relaxed. (Was it the drinks that put him at such ease?)

The brief conversation started thus:

MP: “Hello, Judge Walker, I’m — “

VW: “Hi Michael.”

MP: “I wanna ask you something. Will you come out?”

VW: “Come out?”

MP: “Yeah, come out.”

BA: “Do you mean come out for some socializing?”

MP: “Oh, okay. Whatever. I just hope you do the right thing. Have a good night.”

Even though I wasn’t the least bit medicated, I felt like I had the biggest 420 stoner happy face on display in the restaurant. I was elated from the fabulous kiss-in and saw no reason to press Walker further. I made my point and left.

Let’s hope Walker officially comes out of his glass closet, and renders a decision in the Prop 8 trial that advances American equality for gay people.

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Brett Andrews, left, Vaughn Walker, right

All photos: Michael Petrelis

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  • David Ehrenstein

    Judge Walker has a hot date. FABULOUS!

  • David Ehrenstein

    Judge Walker has a hot date. FABULOUS!

  • bloomsm

    Sorry but I have to go contra on this. First of all, federal judges don’t talk about pending cases with people because it implies that they might have pre-decided the case. Moreover, it’s irresponsible to discuss pending cases because a case like Prop 8 involves heated emotions on both sides. Judge’s are neutral and impartial when it comes to taking sides. They issue decisions after studying the law, not being confronted while dining.

    But more importantly, aside from the writer’s obvious joy at having a chance to go one-on-one with Judge Walker, there is absolutely no relevance to the judge’s sexual orientation (whatever it is). If a judge just followed his own ideology (whether it be in the area of sexual orientation, religion, or race), he would be required to ignore the law and precedent. Do you really want that? Do you want to go to court knowing the judge has already made up his mind because of his personal beliefs?

  • bloomsm

    Sorry but I have to go contra on this. First of all, federal judges don’t talk about pending cases with people because it implies that they might have pre-decided the case. Moreover, it’s irresponsible to discuss pending cases because a case like Prop 8 involves heated emotions on both sides. Judge’s are neutral and impartial when it comes to taking sides. They issue decisions after studying the law, not being confronted while dining.

    But more importantly, aside from the writer’s obvious joy at having a chance to go one-on-one with Judge Walker, there is absolutely no relevance to the judge’s sexual orientation (whatever it is). If a judge just followed his own ideology (whether it be in the area of sexual orientation, religion, or race), he would be required to ignore the law and precedent. Do you really want that? Do you want to go to court knowing the judge has already made up his mind because of his personal beliefs?

  • FlexSF

    Congratulations, tinkerbell, you’re an idiot! Mr. Walker is a federal judge, and considering a legal challenge that will have a direct effect on our private lives, and you come skipping down Market Street wearing your ridiculous pins, and bumper stickers, and invade his privacy.

    The religious zealots that remain constipated over our right to get married have more couth and grace than you’ve demonstrated.

    Get with it, clown!

  • FlexSF

    Congratulations, tinkerbell, you’re an idiot! Mr. Walker is a federal judge, and considering a legal challenge that will have a direct effect on our private lives, and you come skipping down Market Street wearing your ridiculous pins, and bumper stickers, and invade his privacy.

    The religious zealots that remain constipated over our right to get married have more couth and grace than you’ve demonstrated.

    Get with it, clown!

  • Haze Valet

    Great Story!

    I disagree with you flex. There was no invasion of privacy here, and Michael was far more couth and graceful than the zealots fighting marriage equality; AND clowns are not generally bad things. They provide mirth and excitement to the humdrum, therefore your insult falls flat.

    I dont think Walker has to do anything public about his sexuality if he does not want to. That is his business, just like getting married. The story is great because of its human excitement and possibility. However, I think coming out would give needless fire to the Prop 8 folk. The law has nothing to do with the judges orientation, and it should not detract from meting out justice. 3 cents. Done.

  • Haze Valet

    Great Story!

    I disagree with you flex. There was no invasion of privacy here, and Michael was far more couth and graceful than the zealots fighting marriage equality; AND clowns are not generally bad things. They provide mirth and excitement to the humdrum, therefore your insult falls flat.

    I dont think Walker has to do anything public about his sexuality if he does not want to. That is his business, just like getting married. The story is great because of its human excitement and possibility. However, I think coming out would give needless fire to the Prop 8 folk. The law has nothing to do with the judges orientation, and it should not detract from meting out justice. 3 cents. Done.

  • be_devine

    I could not disagree with you more. Judge Walker has every right to keep his sexual orientation private, and you’re a jackass for interrupting his dinner to demand that he “come out.”

    Would you walk up to a private person eating at a restaurant and demand that they tell you if they’re gay or straight? I would hope not. So what is it about a judge that makes it appropriate for you to demand that he “come out”?

    This story is an embarrassment that’s not even worthy of appearing on Perez Hilton.

  • be_devine

    I could not disagree with you more. Judge Walker has every right to keep his sexual orientation private, and you’re a jackass for interrupting his dinner to demand that he “come out.”

    Would you walk up to a private person eating at a restaurant and demand that they tell you if they’re gay or straight? I would hope not. So what is it about a judge that makes it appropriate for you to demand that he “come out”?

    This story is an embarrassment that’s not even worthy of appearing on Perez Hilton.

  • generic

    I’m confused about what an admission of homosexuality would accomplish, being as how everyone already knows he likes the cock.

  • generic

    I’m confused about what an admission of homosexuality would accomplish, being as how everyone already knows he likes the cock.

  • jackson

    Michael, you are a complete idiot and you should be embarrassed to publish this story. He is a judge and not a TV actor.

  • jackson

    Michael, you are a complete idiot and you should be embarrassed to publish this story. He is a judge and not a TV actor.

  • Eve Batey

    I certainly am encouraged by the interesting discussion around the role of activists (or journalists, or journo-activists) in these comments!

    However, having seen many cases where reporters have tracked or happened upon subjects in social settings and gone to work — and having seen activists do the same — I am perhaps less shocked by this story than many of you.

    However, I’d like to urge y’all to attend to our comments policy before you post your remarks.

    Specifically, “don’t be abusive to your fellow commenters or the author of the piece on which you’re commenting.” You’re all intelligent people, and can be civil, I’m sure of it.

  • Eve Batey

    I certainly am encouraged by the interesting discussion around the role of activists (or journalists, or journo-activists) in these comments!

    However, having seen many cases where reporters have tracked or happened upon subjects in social settings and gone to work — and having seen activists do the same — I am perhaps less shocked by this story than many of you.

    However, I’d like to urge y’all to attend to our comments policy before you post your remarks.

    Specifically, “don’t be abusive to your fellow commenters or the author of the piece on which you’re commenting.” You’re all intelligent people, and can be civil, I’m sure of it.

  • be_devine

    Eve, I’ve always been impressed with the work The Appeal publishes. It shows professional journalism that has integrity and is dedicated to exposing stories that really matter to people. This story, on the other hand, is lacking on both counts. It’s disgusting gossip.

    Civility is a two-way street and the author’s conduct shows shocking disrespect for Judge Walker. What we’re talking about here is an author who confronted a person who was quietly enjoying his dinner and demanding that he admit publicly that he’s gay. That’s happened to me–but not since junior high–and I can tell you it’s horrible. Is this conduct that intelligent adults should condone?

    That aggressively confronting people in quasi private settings (like having dinner in a restaurant) is becoming the norm doesn’t excuse the author’s conduct. To the contrary, it’s a strong argument in favor of drawing a journalistic line between what we accept and what we don’t.

    Not only does the author lack a sense of normal social decorum, his story has no point. Judge Walker has professed any sexual orientation, so this isn’t a question of candor or hypocrisy. Why does anyone have a right to know who Judge Walker likes to sleep with? Why? That’s the root question for which there’s no answer. Are we seriously going to demand that any judge that confronts a gay issue say who he or she likes to sleep with? Should transgender judges have to disclose that? What about demanding that any family law judge disclose whether they’ve been married or divorced. Disclosure of all abortions required for any judge hearing cases involving reproductive rights. Criminal judges must disclose if they’ve ever been raped or assaulted. Clearly this is a place we don’t want to go.

    Finally is the dangerous enterprise of intimidating judges. Look back through history (recent and past) and it should become apparent that intimidation of the judiciary is a marker of a crumbling civilization.

    A lot to get off my chest! Now let’s go back to something about which everyone agrees. Chris Daly . . . and go. . .

  • be_devine

    Eve, I’ve always been impressed with the work The Appeal publishes. It shows professional journalism that has integrity and is dedicated to exposing stories that really matter to people. This story, on the other hand, is lacking on both counts. It’s disgusting gossip.

    Civility is a two-way street and the author’s conduct shows shocking disrespect for Judge Walker. What we’re talking about here is an author who confronted a person who was quietly enjoying his dinner and demanding that he admit publicly that he’s gay. That’s happened to me–but not since junior high–and I can tell you it’s horrible. Is this conduct that intelligent adults should condone?

    That aggressively confronting people in quasi private settings (like having dinner in a restaurant) is becoming the norm doesn’t excuse the author’s conduct. To the contrary, it’s a strong argument in favor of drawing a journalistic line between what we accept and what we don’t.

    Not only does the author lack a sense of normal social decorum, his story has no point. Judge Walker has professed any sexual orientation, so this isn’t a question of candor or hypocrisy. Why does anyone have a right to know who Judge Walker likes to sleep with? Why? That’s the root question for which there’s no answer. Are we seriously going to demand that any judge that confronts a gay issue say who he or she likes to sleep with? Should transgender judges have to disclose that? What about demanding that any family law judge disclose whether they’ve been married or divorced. Disclosure of all abortions required for any judge hearing cases involving reproductive rights. Criminal judges must disclose if they’ve ever been raped or assaulted. Clearly this is a place we don’t want to go.

    Finally is the dangerous enterprise of intimidating judges. Look back through history (recent and past) and it should become apparent that intimidation of the judiciary is a marker of a crumbling civilization.

    A lot to get off my chest! Now let’s go back to something about which everyone agrees. Chris Daly . . . and go. . .

  • Brock Keeling

    What I want to know: what did they eat? 2223 got an amazing review on “Check, Please” last week, and I’m debating giving the place another look!

  • Brock Keeling

    What I want to know: what did they eat? 2223 got an amazing review on “Check, Please” last week, and I’m debating giving the place another look!

  • Patrick Connors

    There is no relevance to Walker being a closet case?

    Sure he’s sitting pretty in the window of restaurant in the Castro with a handsome man, enjoying the perks of his open secret. No one really knows for sure if he has cock breath….we are all just assuming it to be true. Would he have his job if it weren’t an “open secret?” Would he have been allowed to hear the Prop 8 case if he wasn’t keeping a secret?

    As we all know, heterosexual judges are beyond reproach. They don’t express any bias – especially when it comes to matters regarding LGBT issues. Their sexual identity or the privilieges they enjoy from not keeping secrets – wearing wedding rings, adopting / raising children, strolling in public with a partner, sitting in the window of a restaurant – are not questioned or examined.

    Sure, let Judge Walker have his comfy life – earning gay taxpayer dollars – in peace. When Harvey Milk said “come out come out where ever you are” he wasn’t talking about the intelligencia, the middle class or the well connected. He didn’t mean that everyone bears a responsiblity to live with integrity and honesty for our communal benefit….did he? Did Milk just mean that the little people need to put their lives and comfort at risk so the elites can be free to do the important work they do…behind the scenes…??

    I don’t think so. Good for you, Michael Petrelis. Thank you for not letting the moment pass and for making him (perhaps) and some other people feel uncomfortable and responsible for understanding how the closet hurts – the people in them and the rest of us that don’t hide in them.

  • Patrick Connors

    There is no relevance to Walker being a closet case?

    Sure he’s sitting pretty in the window of restaurant in the Castro with a handsome man, enjoying the perks of his open secret. No one really knows for sure if he has cock breath….we are all just assuming it to be true. Would he have his job if it weren’t an “open secret?” Would he have been allowed to hear the Prop 8 case if he wasn’t keeping a secret?

    As we all know, heterosexual judges are beyond reproach. They don’t express any bias – especially when it comes to matters regarding LGBT issues. Their sexual identity or the privilieges they enjoy from not keeping secrets – wearing wedding rings, adopting / raising children, strolling in public with a partner, sitting in the window of a restaurant – are not questioned or examined.

    Sure, let Judge Walker have his comfy life – earning gay taxpayer dollars – in peace. When Harvey Milk said “come out come out where ever you are” he wasn’t talking about the intelligencia, the middle class or the well connected. He didn’t mean that everyone bears a responsiblity to live with integrity and honesty for our communal benefit….did he? Did Milk just mean that the little people need to put their lives and comfort at risk so the elites can be free to do the important work they do…behind the scenes…??

    I don’t think so. Good for you, Michael Petrelis. Thank you for not letting the moment pass and for making him (perhaps) and some other people feel uncomfortable and responsible for understanding how the closet hurts – the people in them and the rest of us that don’t hide in them.

  • Sarah Fidelibus

    Enjoyed the conversation in the comments–lots of good discussion here.

    Brock, I ate there about two weeks ago, and the food was great! I had a salad with a creamy garlic dressing (and cornichons!) and lamb; the lamb came with an artichoke and goat cheese tart that was divine. My friend had pot roast, and it was velvety and wonderful. We were both disappointed in our desserts, however. Entrees and salads, though, were tasty indeed! (Also, I had a mint lemonade, which was perfectly minty and lemony.)

  • Sarah Fidelibus

    Enjoyed the conversation in the comments–lots of good discussion here.

    Brock, I ate there about two weeks ago, and the food was great! I had a salad with a creamy garlic dressing (and cornichons!) and lamb; the lamb came with an artichoke and goat cheese tart that was divine. My friend had pot roast, and it was velvety and wonderful. We were both disappointed in our desserts, however. Entrees and salads, though, were tasty indeed! (Also, I had a mint lemonade, which was perfectly minty and lemony.)