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Eric Holder and
the LGBT Community

Eric Holder and
the LGBT Community

With the backing of the civil rights community -- and a stellar record on gay rights -- Eric Holder is immensely qualified for the critical position of Attorney General.

Although several of President Obama's cabinet nominees have been confirmed by voice vote or nearly unanimously, some senators are delaying and politicizing Eric Holder's nomination as the next Attorney General. Politicizing the confirmation of one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated in this post, should remind the LGBT and broader civil rights communities that our opponents remain eager to block any move toward restoring the federal government's role in protecting civil rights.

While the LGBT community has a stake in seeing fair-minded leaders in every cabinet agency, the Attorney General (AG), is among the most critical positions. The AG is America's lawyer, appointed to serve all people, not just the president or his administration. As the chief enforcer of civil rights, the AG must have a comprehensive vision of the government's authority to preserve equality for everyone.

As the Department of Justice's (DOJ) leader, the AG determines the department's litigation priorities. Under the Bush Administration, the DOJ reduced the department's focus on prosecuting cases of racial, ethnic and sex discrimination. This dramatic change in civil rights priorities led to the Justice Department litigating fewer cases involving hate crimes, voting rights and employment discrimination.

Logically, one would expect Eric Holder, as President Obama's nominee, to sail through the confirmation process. Immensely qualified, Holder has the support of an impressive array of constituencies. The civil rights community, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, has sent a letter of support with signatories from across the civil rights community such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of La Raza and the National Partnership for Women & Families. Law enforcement, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, has urged the Senate to confirm Holder. And the broader legal community, from both Democratic and Republican circles, has spoken of his intellectual rigor, professional judgment, high ethical standards and outstanding qualifications.

The Human Rights Campaign supports Eric Holder not only for those obvious reasons, but for his demonstrated commitment to combating hate-motivated violence against the LGBT community. In 1999, when he was Deputy Attorney General, Holder testified before the U.S. House in support of hate crimes legislation. He understood that the murders of Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither and James Byrd were examples of a dire problem that required a federal solution, including a federal hate crimes law.

It would stand to reason that his qualifications, coupled with such deep and broad support, would have provided Holder a warm reception in the Senate. Yet, almost as soon as he was chosen, attacks were launched and not just on his record, but on his character. We have since learned that Holder's nomination will be used as a political test run for opposing President Obama's legislative priorities and judicial appointments.

Some Republican senators are flexing their muscles with Holder, showing us all what might lie ahead. In fact, the master of division, the one and only Karl Rove, has even weighed in the confirmation battle. And just this past Wednesday, Republican senators forced a week-long delay in Holder's confirmation vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

With the Justice Department struggling to recover from eight years of mismanagement and the enormous challenges facing our country, now is not the time to play politics. As a civil rights community, we must demonstrate that we will not allow justice to be delayed or denied for one more moment. Justice knows no party and does not bend to ideology, but it must be served. The LGBT community must make its voice heard and support Eric Holder, who is not only a superb nominee but someone who has stood with us. Now, it's time for us to stand with him.

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