SAN FRANCISCO — Retired federal appeals court judge William Norris, who wrote a concurring opinion in 1988 calling the U.S. Army’s ban on gay soldiers unconstitutional, died Saturday. He was 89.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced his death Friday. Norris served 17 years on the San Francisco-based court before retiring in 1997.

Norris concluded that the Army’s prohibition on gay soldiers serving was just as morally – and legally – wrong as banning interracial marriages. His concurring opinion in the Army case was one of more than 400 rulings Norris wrote while a judge.

“Judge Norris was a brilliant colleague and a good friend,” said 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who was also appointed to the 9th Circuit in 1980. “His commitment to the cause of individual liberty was unwavering.”

Norris also wrote the 1990 majority opinion overturning singer Wayne Newton’s $5.2 million libel damage award against NBC. Norris concluded that the singer failed to prove NBC television journalists purposely lied when they reported Newton had ties to organized crime.

“The media should not fear that its journalists’ professional judgments will be second-guessed by juries without benefit of careful independent review,” Norris wrote in the 51-page opinion.