Retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had encouraging words Thursday for an audience of more than 300 at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast in Palm Springs.
"It's true much remains to be done, but we can also take a good deal of satisfaction that we have progressed quite remarkably," said Walker.
Walker became a key figure in the LGBT community after he ruled in 2010 that voter approved Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Walker's decision was later upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Having him here today is a significant opportunity for us to hear from somebody who many believe is going to be a watershed moment in the civil rights movement with the overturning of Prop 8," said Ron deHarte, President of Greater Palm Springs Pride.
Still, despite Walker's ruling, the debate over same-sex marriage in California continues. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected rule on the constitutionality of Prop 8 sometime next month.
In recognizing the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, Walker said Milk's spirit of activism must continue to be embraced by the gay community, in order to attain equal rights every American deserves.
"One of the things that he did was build coalitions to reach out to those who don't perhaps share the particular characteristics that are important to so many of us, and that is the way these transformative events occur," said Walker.