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Federal judge who ruled on constitutional protections for gays dies
2017-02-01

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William A. Norris, a former federal appeals court judge who in 1989 wrote an iconic ruling on gay rights, long before same-sex marriage entered the lexicon, has died at age 89.

While serving on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Norris, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, authored a majority decision that said gays had the same constitutional protections as racial minorities. The case, Watkins v. United States Army, overturned the mandatory discharge of Staff Sgt. Perry J. Watkins for acknowledging he was gay.

Norris' ruling has been described as the first to use an equal-protection analysis regarding gay rights.

He graduated from Stanford Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Plans for a memorial service are pending.


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