Just one month after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama on Wednesday announced the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the nation’s high court.
Garland, 63, is a longtime Washington lawyer who currently serves as the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit, often called the “second highest court in the land.”
Generally considered a centrist, Garland’s views as a moderate differ greatly from the staunchly conservative ideologies of the late justice whose seat he may fill.
Nevertheless, when announcing his nomination today in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Garland’s thoughtful, measured approach as a jurist, noting that he has built strong, trusted relationships with bipartisan forces in Washington.
"The one name that has come up repeatedly — from Republicans and Democrats alike — is Merrick Garland,” the president said of his vetting process that included seeking input from members of Congress.
While some had expressed hope for a more traditionally diverse or progressive candidate — a woman or person of color, or even the first LGBT justice on the high court — LGBT advocates and organizations around the country generally applauded Merrick’s nomination.
They also stressed the importance of the Senate taking a confirmation vote on Merrick, in the wake of obstructionist efforts from the Republican led-chamber, whose leaders have said they will not consider any nominee until a new president takes office.
“There is no doubt that Garland has the temperament and credentials to serve honorably on our nation’s highest court. The only question is whether Senate Republicans will allow him to do so.
“A responsible Senate, committed to fulfilling its constitutional responsibility, would vote to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. I sincerely hope that is what they do.”
The Human Rights Campaign also urged the Senate to act on Merrick’s nomination in the following statement, attributed to HRC president Chad Griffin:
“Americans deserve a full Supreme Court bench, and President Obama's nominee deserves a hearing. There is no doubt that Merrick Garland is a highly qualified candidate, and the Senate has a Constitutional responsibility to give him swift and fair consideration.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights’ executive director, Kate Kendell, reiterated the importance of the Senate giving Obama’s nominee an up-or-down vote:
"We urge the Senate to do its job and move swiftly to confirm his nomination. With so many issues of critical importance pending before the Court, including those affecting millions of women and immigrants, filling the vacancy left by former Justice Scalia should be an urgent priority, and any delay would be unconscionable."
Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, noted that Republican calls to #GiveThePeopleAVoice disregard the fact that American voters have already expressed their will — by electing Barack Obama to two four-year terms. Sheyman said:
“It is time for Republicans in the Senate to put country before party and give Judge Garland fair consideration, including a hearing and a vote. Republicans must abandon their unprecedented obstruction. … By refusing to even consider this nomination, Republicans are not just disrespecting Judge Garland and President Obama, they are disrespecting the Constitution. Republicans like to say voters should have a say in this process. We agree, and they did. They elected President Obama not once but twice knowing full well he would have the power to make this pick. President Obama has done his job. Now Senate Republicans need to do theirs.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force called on the Senate to take “immediate” action on Garland’s nomination. Task Force executive director Rea Carey said:
“Delaying to fill the Supreme Court vacancy has serious implications for the lives of millions of people for generations to come. Too much is at stake including the future of voting rights, racial justice, economic justice, immigration reform, reproductive rights, and full equality for LGBTQ people. We urge the Senate leadership not to play politics with our judicial system and move the hearing and voting process forward swiftly.
Failing to hold a fair hearing is not only morally wrong but it is also a complete disregard to the Constitutional responsibilities of the Senate.”
LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal has launched a petition titled “Tell U.S Senators: Do Your Job.” In a blog post that also linked to the petition, the organization’s national legal director Jon W. Davidson wrote:
We call upon members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to fulfill their constitutional duty and ensure Judge Garland is given a complete and timely review.
“We encourage them to ask comprehensive and probing questions to evaluate Judge Garland’s ability to be a fair and impartial member of our highest court rather than rejecting his nomination out-of-hand in partisan fashion, without even a hearing.
“We hope that the progress we have spent decades fighting for will continue once the vacancy is filled. … Recent polling shows that two-thirds of all Americans believe hearings should occur.
“All Americans, not just a select few, need justices who will uphold the Constitution and ensure that its guiding principles are applied equally to protect everyone in our nation.”