The judge who struck down California’s ban on gay marriage has spoken publicly for the first time about the fact he is gay.

US District Judge Vaughn Walker, now retired, was outed during the course of last year’s trial by a newspaper which said his sexuality was an open secret.

He did not acknowledge the report at the time, despite criticism from gay rights opponents that he would be biased.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Walker said he had never considered his sexual orientation as a reason not to hear the case.

It would be a “slippery slope” if judges began dropping cases because of their own sexual orientation, race or gender, he said.

Reuters reports that Mr Walker revealed he was in a ten-year relationship with a physician.

He has had a tumultuous relationship with the gay community throughout his law career, having once represented the US Olympic Committee in a case against a gay group which wanted to call itself the Gay Olympics.

He said: “I was the ogre of the gay community when I was nominated, and a hero when I leave,”

Gay rights opponents appealed Mr Walker’s decision and the case is due to come before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal, after the Supreme Court has ruled whether anti-gay groups have the legal standing to challenge the ruling.