President Bush will use a recess appointment to put ultraconservative, antigay Alabama attorney general William Pryor on the 11th U.S. circuit court of appeals, at least temporarily, government sources said Friday. The move infuriated gay and lesbian rights groups.
"Why is the president issuing lifetime appointments to bigots?" said David Tseng, executive director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "Executive decisions like these assault the dignity and humanity of GLBT families and loved ones." An attorney and former Clinton White House senior policy adviser, Tseng is conversant with Pryor's record of discrimination.
"We have no reason to believe that William Pryor--who has shown time and again that he's unable to separate his antigay beliefs from his professional duties--will be able to serve as a federal judge without bias," said Human Rights Campaign president Cheryl Jacques. "Mr. Pryor changed his vacation plans to avoid being at Disney World during Gay Days. If he's too prejudiced to share a 36,000-acre theme park with openly gay couples and their families, he should not be serving on a federal bench. It's especially troubling that he's been appointed to the same court that's been asked to rule on whether gays who serve as foster parents should be able to legally adopt children they've raised their entire lives."
The 11th U.S. circuit court of appeals has been asked to review the decision in Lofton v. Kearney, which upheld Florida's ban on adoptions by gay and lesbian parents even though gays are allowed to serve as foster parents. There are more than 4,000 children currently waiting for homes in Florida. In addition, Pryor filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case challenging Texas's sodomy law, to liken homosexuality to incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, and adultery. He also argued that sodomy is a chosen behavior unworthy of constitutional protection.
"Mr. Pryor's remarks fly in the face of scientific and medical evidence and common decency," Jacques said. "He has used his position to marginalize and malign GLBT Americans. That kind of bias and blatant discrimination is not appropriate for someone assuming a lifetime appointment to a federal circuit court."
After senators were informed by the White House, Pryor went to the federal courthouse in Montgomery, Ala., where he was expected to be sworn in at a private ceremony. The recess appointment, which would last only until the end of 2005, would be the second by Bush to sidestep Democrats who have mounted successful filibusters against Pryor and five other appeals court nominees.
Bush picked Pryor last April for a seat on the 11th circuit court of appeals, which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Abortion rights advocates immediately mounted a campaign against him, citing Pryor's criticism of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which affirmed a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Republicans have been unsuccessful in five attempts, the last one in November, at breaking through the procedural blockade that Democrats erected against Pryor's nomination.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Bush of using a recess appointment to bolster his standing with Republican conservatives before the fall election. "Regularly circumventing the advise-and-consent process is not the way to change the tone in Washington," Schumer said.