Monday, August 29, 2005

Rights Groups Not Backing Roberts Nomination

(Link) One pro bono case for our side does not an ally make. A paper trail leading back through the Reagan Era shows a Supreme Court nominee who could shift the court to the right " for decades to come, imperiling Americans’ constitutional rights and liberties.”

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Eartha Jane Melzer
Houston Voice

Four of the nation’s largest gay rights organizations announced on Thursday their opposition to the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, claiming his record is hostile to the rights of privacy and minorities.

The Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays released a united statement of opposition on Thursdy, Aug. 25.

“For his entire adult life, John Roberts has been a disciple of and promoted a political and legal ideology that is antithetical to an America that embraces all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Task Force.

“He has denigrated the nature and scope of the constitutional rights to privacy, equal protection and due process as well as the federal government’s role in confronting injustice.”

People for the American Way announced its opposition to the Roberts nomination a day earlier and released a 50-page report detailing its concerns.

“Our review of John Roberts’ record and the tens of thousands of pages of documents released by the administration show that confirming John Roberts would endanger much of the progress made by the nation in civil rights over the past half-century,” said Ralph Neas, president of People For the American Way.

“If John Roberts replaces Sandra Day O’Connor, the balance of the court will shift to the right for decades to come, imperiling Americans’ constitutional rights and liberties.”

Groups have been scrambling to determine Roberts’ judicial philosophy since President Bush announced on July 19 that Roberts was his pick to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, who is retiring.

Scant paper trail
Researching Roberts’ record has proved challenging in part because of his limited number of rulings — he has been a judge only since his 2003 appointment to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most influential federal court in the nation.

Prior to serving on the bench, Roberts worked as a lawyer in private practice at the D.C. firm of Hogan & Hartson, as White House counsel in the Reagan administration and in the Justice Department of President George H.W. Bush.

The coalition of gay rights groups said it is troubled that the Bush administration has denied the Senate access to documents from Roberts’ service as deputy solicitor general from 1989 to 1993. These documents are said to include Roberts’ writings on cases involving voting rights, abortion rights and the separation of church and state.

Reports that Roberts had done some pro bono work on the Romer vs. Evans gay rights case while in private practice at Hogan & Hartson have led some to conclude that he is not personally anti-gay, but the gay groups insisted on Thursday that the work is not relevant to how Roberts would rule as a Supreme Court Justice.

“Roberts has repeatedly written that the court should not stand up for civil rights, but rather allow legislatures to enact such laws as they wish — even those that deny the rights that Americans understand to be fundamental,” the groups wrote.

The gay rights groups also expressed concern about whether Roberts would rely on sound science when making decisions of concern to gay men and lesbians.

“In spite of the clear consensus among social science, psychiatric, psychological, and medical associations in favor of GLBT equality, courts are frequently presented with unfounded assertions that there is conflicting evidence,” the groups wrote.

Against this backdrop, the groups said, “We were troubled to learn that Roberts, as a Reagan administration attorney, seemed to disregard mainstream scientific evidence about how HIV is transmitted.

In September 1985, Roberts cautioned President Reagan against stating that the AIDS virus could not be spread through casual contact among school children. In fact, in August 1985 Centers for Disease Control guidelines clearly stated that ‘Casual person to person contact, as among school children, appears to pose no risk.’”

Back in July, before Roberts’ 1985 statements on AIDS were released, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a community-based non-profit involved with AIDS, announrced its opposition to Roberts’ nomination.

The group stated that Roberts’ record of supporting religious activities in public spaces, and his opposition to the right to privacy indicated that as a justice he would endanger those affected by HIV/AIDS.

‘A great justice’
Christopher Barron, political director of the Log Cabin Republicans said, the gay GOP group will wait until Roberts’ confirmation hearing before deciding its position.

“We are continuing to talk to our allies on the Hill to ensure that the right questions get asked of Judge Roberts on where he stands on issues of basic fairness for the LGBT community,” said Barron.

Bryan Pruitt, former president of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin, described the gay groups’ opposition as predictable.

“From everything that I’ve read, Judge Roberts is going to be a great justice,” said Pruitt, an active Log Cabin member, emphasizing that he was speaking only for himself. “Of course it is not surprising that HRC and other liberal interest groups would come out against him.”

Though Pruitt was unfamiliar with the groups’ concerns about Roberts’ record, he said he felt Roberts should be given a chance to answer questions on numerous issues, especially equal protection.

Pruitt said that the groups that announced opposition to Roberts were “pre-judging the situation,” and should wait and allow him to answer questions during the confirmation hearing.

Lambda Legal, a legal group that focuses on gay rights, has begun gathering signatures for a petition urging senators to ask Judge Roberts 30 law-based questions about gay and lesbian civil rights during the confirmation hearing.

The confirmation hearing process is scheduled to begin on Sept. 6.