The real activist judges

The Bush administration has worked diligently to nominate right-wing ideologues to the federal bench. The battle has reached a boiling point and and there’s too much at stake for gay men and lesbians not to fight

BY Kevin Cathcart

May 24 2005 12:00 AM ET

Terrence BoyleFederal district court judge Terrence Boyle has repeatedly been nominated to the appellate bench (by both George W. Bush and his father) and repeatedly has failed to win Senate confirmation because of his extreme judicial views and hostility to civil rights litigants. Indeed, Boyle persistently has demonstrated his willingness to step outside the judicial mainstream and ignore well-established law in order to rule against people where civil rights are at stake.Of particular concern is Boyle’s radical approach to the Americans With Disabilities Act—an approach marked by disregard for the law and antipathy to the claims of disabled people.Since its enactment in 1990, the ADA has been instrumental in protecting people with HIV from being fired from their jobs or thrown out of their homes. Judges like Boyle would change all that. If his rulings in disability cases to date were applied to people with HIV, they would effectively give employers permission to turn their irrational fear of AIDS into an excuse to fire dedicated employees. In fact, Boyle’s approach to the ADA would open the door for employers to fire with impunity people with HIV.Sadly, the public record indicates that in his more than 20 years as a federal trial court judge Boyle has never ruled in favor of a plaintiff in an ADA case.Boyle’s blatant disregard for the law has contributed to his unusually high reversal rate on appeal. In fact, Boyle has been reversed more often than any other district court judge nominated to an appeals court by President Bush. There is no question that, given the opportunity, Terrence Boyle would use his platform on the federal appeals court to severely undermine legal protections for people with HIV.Pryor and Boyle are only two examples of the kind of judges that conservatives are trying to push through with the “nuclear option”—a threat to end more than 200 years of checks and balances by eliminating the right of a minority of senators to filibuster highly controversial judicial nominees. If the federal courts are overtaken by judges like this, our legal rights to live day-to-day without discrimination will hang in the balance. We can’t let them turn back the clock.The Supreme Court’s infamously homophobic decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld sodomy laws, was decided by one vote in 1986. The LGBT community spent the next 17 years under that dark legal cloud. Imagine where we might be today if we had eliminated sodomy laws in 1986 instead of 2003.Antigay bigots will do anything to keep our community from winning in court.Will you do anything to stop them?Cathcart is the executive director of Lambda Legal. To learn how you can become part of Lambda Legal’s Courting Justice campaign click on www.lambdalegal.org

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