The guessing game may be over regarding President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, but there is still a lot that’s unknown about his pick: Judge John G. Roberts. Roberts, a judge on the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, has an extremely disturbing record in opposition to Roe v. Wade dating from his days as a lawyer for the Reagan administration.
He has no paper trail specifically on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. But we know this: President Bush has nominated more than 200 judges to the federal courts. Not one of them has been on record supporting GLBT equality. Not one of them has spoken out in favor of a woman’s right to choose. While speculation is that the Senate will wait until September for confirmation hearings, the Human Rights Campaign is already lobbying senators to ask Judge Roberts the tough questions.
As deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration, Roberts coauthored a brief arguing that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided and should be overruled.” The privacy rights decided in Roe were at the core of the landmark Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case. Not only should we be gravely concerned about his opposition to a woman’s right to chose, we must find out if he supports privacy rights as they pertain to our relationships. We must know if he’ll support Congress’s power to enact legislation that protects gay and transgender Americans from discrimination and violence.
Nominees have tried to dodge these questions with responses that amount to “Gee, I never thought of that.” In fact, the administration has encouraged its lower court nominees to be evasive. A candidate for the Supreme Court needs to have already thought through these questions of constitutional importance. Senators must insist on an answer.
This is where you come in. While we’re on Capitol Hill, you need to be at home calling your senators, writing your local newspapers, and rallying your friends to get involved. We have too much at stake for you to sit this one out. While Judge Roberts may not have an antigay paper trail, we need to be engaged and vocal about his nomination.
Judge Roberts is being appointed to the nation’s highest court. If confirmed, his votes will affect every single one of us. Be it nondiscrimination laws, the ability to serve openly in the military, or whether the government has the right to peek into the privacy of our homes, the Supreme Court has the final say on issues that affect our lives. And one or two justices can sway the entire court.
Look at Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans. Those cases, which respectively overturned sodomy laws branding gay people as criminals and ruled unconstitutional a Colorado amendment that prohibited protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, were decided by narrow margins. The majority decisions were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kennedy wasn’t Reagan’s first nominee. His first pick, Judge Robert Bork, has an egregiously antigay record and was rejected by the Senate. Had the Senate not held Judge Bork to a high level of scrutiny, we could be looking at a very different world in terms of equal rights.
Our opponents on the far right have been warning President Bush that he must appoint someone who would uphold their values. Today, President Bush said he would be nominating someone who wouldn’t “legislate from the bench.” Although this might sound reasonable at first, in fact, it’s straight from our opponents’ playbook. It’s code for judges who refuse to rule that the Constitution ensures equal protection for all.
President Bush also visited with Reverend Jerry Falwell and Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the antigay American Center for Law and Justice. Suddenly, the far right is warning Bush less and praising a batch of candidates more, including Judge Roberts. Already Sekulow has indicated that Roberts is worthy of consideration as a Supreme Court justice.
Antigay activists are pleased with this pick, and that’s reason enough for concern.
While Judge Roberts may not be on record against GLBT rights, we have to be concerned, cautious, and involved. President Bush has been anything but a friend to fair-minded Americans. Don’t wait until September to get involved. The confirmation process has already begun. Now is our chance to have a say in the makeup of the Supreme Court. The guessing games are only beginning. Let’s all be part of finding some answers.