Lambda launches campaign to dispel "activist judge" claims
March 03 2004 1:00 AM ET
On the same day as a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing titled "Judicial Activism vs. Democracy," which will include a debate about a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund will launch a national campaign to challenge claims that so-called activist judges make it necessary to pass the amendment. Noting that many recent legal victories in favor of gay rights were decided by conservative judges, Lambda executive director Kevin Cathcart on Tuesday said it is necessary to educate lawmakers and the public about the role of the courts in ending discrimination. "Who are these so-called activist judges, and where are they?" Cathcart asked. He noted that Republican governors appointed six of the seven justices on the Massachusetts high court, which recently ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry, and that Republican presidents appointed four of the six U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down the Texas law that criminalized gay sex. "The claim that 'activist judges' are behind these rulings for equality is nothing short of a fraud," he said. "Our Constitution requires judges to be fair-minded and independent, regardless of their political beliefs and sometimes in the face of strong political opposition."
Lambda said its new campaign will be a multipronged, multistate effort to challenge misinformation and hold politicians and organizations responsible for using false claims to advance an antigay political agenda. The campaign, called "Judging Discrimination," begins Wednesday, Cathcart said. It will include organizing with college groups at the alma maters of political leaders--including President Bush, adviser Karl Rove, and the senators behind Wednesday's hearing--to provide "refresher civics courses" on the Constitution and the proper role of courts; advertising in mainstream daily newspapers; monitoring the media for unchallenged claims about "activist judges"; encouraging citizen action; and providing in-depth information on the real story behind recent legal victories.
The ads and the Web site feature several judges who have been labeled "activist judges" but are actually quite conservative--including an Arkansas supreme court justice, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, federal judges in Orange County, Calif., and Kentucky, a Massachusetts high court justice, and a state court judge in New York who previously worked as a Republican Party official. "It's apparent what right-wing politicians and extremist groups mean when they say 'activist judge,'" Cathcart said. "It's a term used to smear a judge who takes the Constitution and fairness seriously rather than ruling in favor of the right-wing agenda. President Bush, some members of Congress, and many right-wing groups are using this fraud to fuel their attempts to write discrimination into our Constitution, and we won't allow it. In fact, civil rights lawsuits involve real people facing real discrimination; fortunately, these cases are being decided by real judges rather than the bogeymen the right wing is fabricating with its rhetoric."