The now-retired federal judge who struck down Proposition 8 said at a meeting in San Francisco Thursday he thinks same-sex marriage is "an idea whose time has come."
Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made the comment at the end of a Commonwealth Club lecture in answer to an audience member's request for his view on the future of gay marriage in American society.
"It does seem to me the notion of people deciding to get married without regard to gender is an idea whose time has come and that eventually will be accepted," Walker said.
"It seems to me that will eventually be the outcome," he said.
Walker, who retired last year, ruled in 2010 that California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. The measure was enacted by state voters in 2008.
In February, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Walker's conclusion by a 2-1 vote, but on narrower grounds that would apply only to California's situation.
The appeals panel said Proposition 8 treated gays and lesbians unfairly by taking away their previously granted right to marry without any reasonable justification. Same-sex marriage was legal in California for several months before the initiative was passed in November 2008.
Proposition 8's sponsors have now appealed for a reconsideration of the case by an 11-judge panel of the appeals court. After the appeals court rules on that request, the next step could be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Asked for his prediction on the final outcome of the case, Walker said he's not sure whether it will reach the high court.
"My decision was affirmed by the 9th Circuit on narrower grounds than those on which I decided. Like any judge who is affirmed, I'm happy to take that," Walker said.
But "there is some question whether Proposition 8 will go to the Supreme Court," he continued.
"The Supreme Court could decide not to review the Proposition 8 case" because of the narrowness of the 9th Circuit ruling, Walker said.
Walker, 67, joined the federal court in 1989 after being nominated by President George H.W. Bush. After retiring in February 2011, he returned to private practice in San Francisco, specializing in mediation, arbitration and complex litigation.
The main topic of Walker's talk was the current state of law practice, which he said has changed greatly over the past two decades because of advances in computer technology, law firm mergers and greater control by clients over their cases, among other factors.
"In a way, I feel a little bit like Rip Van Winkle," Walker joked, in a reference to the fictional colonial character who fell asleep for 20 years and woke up to discover the American Revolution had taken place.