Wisconsin High Court Justice Once Called Gays 'Degenerates,' 'Abnormal'

Justice Rebecca Bradley
Justice Rebecca Bradley

After progressive groups publicized antigay opinion pieces she had written for a student newspaper in 1992, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley has apologized and said the pieces are “not reflective of my worldview.”

Bradley, then known as Rebecca Grassi, called gay people “degenerates” and homosexuality “an abnormal sexual preference” in a column and in letters to the editor published by Marquette University’s Tribune, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

One Wisconsin Now and People for the American Way distributed copies of Bradley’s writings at a press conference Monday at the state capitol in Madison, four weeks before the state’s Supreme Court election, the Journal Sentinel reports. Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to the high court last October to finish the term of a justice who had died. She now must stand for election April 5; Wisconsin elects Supreme Court justices to staggered 10-year terms.

The groups called on Bradley to resign because of statements that included the following:

“Perhaps AIDS Awareness [a campus group] should seek to educate us with their misdirected compassion for the degenerates who basically commit suicide through their behavior.”

“One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all of the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.”

“The homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy.”

“Why is a student government on a Catholic campus attempting to bring legitimacy to an abnormal sexual preference?”

And on the election of President Bill Clinton: “We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. … We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.”

One Wisconsin Now and People for the American Way said Bradley’s writings amounted to hate speech and made her unfit to serve on the court. “Rebecca Bradley has revealed such a depth of hatred and contempt for people that she cannot be trusted to uphold the most basic tenet of our judicial system, that all are equal before the law,” said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross in a press release.

Added Scott Foval, a regional political coordinator for People for the American Way: “As a gay man and long-term survivor living with HIV, Rebecca Bradley’s hateful diatribes against people like me while at Marquette are shocking and deeply disturbing. I question how anyone in the LGBTQ community, or anyone living with HIV/AIDS feels they could get a fair decision from her. The demeaning statements she authored gravely undermine her ability to continue to serve on the state Supreme Court.”

Bradley’s campaign manager called the demand that she resign absurd, the Journal Sentinel reports. The justice declined to speak to the paper but issued a written statement saying she was embarrassed by what she wrote “as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election” in 1992, when Clinton was elected to his first term.

“To those offended by comments I made as a young college student, I apologize, and assure you that those comments are not reflective of my worldview,” her statement continued. “These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.” The release of her 1992 writings now is “a blatant mudslinging campaign,” she added.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court elections are officially nonpartisan, but Bradley has close ties with Walker, a Republican who briefly sought his party’s presidential nomination. He had previously appointed her to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court and a state appeals court. Walker told the Journal Sentinel he hadn’t been aware previously of the writings that surfaced today, but that Bradley has made it clear they do not reflect her current thinking.

In 2013 Bradley attended a benefit for LGBT rights group Fair Wisconsin, the paper reports, although she acknowledged being there only after the Log Cabin Republicans released a photo of her at the event.

She has declined to say whether she agrees with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, but she has said she would officiate a same-sex marriage if asked, the paper reports. Her opponent in a close race, JoAnne Kloppenburg, has officiated several such ceremonies and is on record as approving of the ruling.

Kloppenburg denounced Bradley’s writings as “abhorrent and disturbing,” according to the Journal Sentinel. Also denouncing them was U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly LGBT member of that body. “These hateful and divisive writings raise serious questions about Rebecca Bradley’s fitness to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court as a fair, impartial and independent justice,” said a statement issued by Baldwin.

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