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Alito advocated
discrimination against HIV-positive Americans

Alito advocated
discrimination against HIV-positive Americans

Samuel Alito, nominated by President Bush Monday to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, helped write a U.S. Justice Department opinion in 1986 that said employers should be able to legally fire HIV-positive employees because of their infection, The Washington Post reports. Alito was working in the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel when he helped write the opinion, which stated that "fear of contagion, whether reasonable or not," was reason enough for an employer to legally fire an HIV-positive worker. The opinion went on to state that discrimination based on insufficient medical knowledge was not prohibited by federal laws that protect the disabled.

"We certainly did not want to encourage irrational discrimination, but we had to interpret the law as it stands," Alito later said of the opinion, according to the Post.

Not surprisingly, AIDS groups were shocked to learn that Alito has advocated legalized discrimination against HIV-positive Americans.

"This is quite disturbing, this information about his background in discriminating against those suffering from HIV and AIDS," says Damon Dozier, congressional liaison for the National Minority AIDS Council. "Even though [Alito's work on the Justice Department opinion] was very early in the epidemic, it still is no excuse for discrimination against people who, quite frankly, contribute to the greatness of this nation. Discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated. I think we fear that as we stack people on the court who've shown prejudices in the past, it doesn't give us any comfort for what may happen in the future."

Terje Anderson, executive director of the National Association of People With AIDS, says Alito's work on the Justice Department opinion was rooted in prejudice and misinformation. "The law should be used to protect the rights of all Americans to be treated with fairness and justice, not leave people vulnerable to uneducated, unscientific base prejudices," Anderson says. "People living with HIV/AIDS need to know that the court system will protect our right to live free from discrimination."

"We urge the U.S. Senate to carefully examine the record of Judge Alito in this matter and to reject his narrow and hateful willingness to allow irrational fear and hatred to become enshrined in law," Anderson continues. "On the basis of his record in this matter, we ask the Senate to reject his nomination to the Supreme Court." (

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