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The Democratic National Committee today launched a weeklong campaign aimed at getting the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy filled expeditiously, with today's action focusing on LGBT rights.
The #FillTheSeat campaign kicked off with the release of a video, "We're Not Done," in which several LGBT people point out the unfinished business of assuring equality and note that the Supreme Court could play a large role regarding LGBT rights. "That's why it's so critical for our community that President Obama's nominee is confirmed by the Senate," says one speaker in the video.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, though, have said the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death should be filled by Obama's successor, and they have vowed to block any Obama nominee. This is unprecedented and could be disastrous, said Democratic activists and elected officials on a media conference call in conjunction with the video's release.
"The argument that somehow we would wait to see who we may elect next is disconnected from reality," said U.S. Rep. Mark Takano of California, who is gay. "[Obama] has the constitutional duty to nominate and the Senate has the duty to act on it."
Takano was joined on the call by fellow out U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, DNC LGBT Caucus chair Earl Fowlkes, and DNC spokesman T.J. Helmstetter. They agreed there could be setbacks for LGBT rights if the vacancy remains unfilled for a year or more. They noted that a 4-4 tie vote on the high court would leave lower court decisions standing.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in 21 cases this and next month (including the first case regarding abortion access heard by the court in more than 20 years), and while none of these directly address LGBT rights, that doesn't mean the court wouldn't get an LGBT rights case in the next year or so, they noted. The video refers to cases in which judges have ruled that existing federal civil rights laws don't ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, even though Obama administration officials contend they do, and cases involving these issues could soon come before the Supreme Court, the Democrats said.
They dismissed the idea that it might actually be in Democrats' favor to wait until the next president takes office, on the chance that the nation would elect not only a Democratic president but a Democratic majority in the Senate. "The Senate needs to do its job," Polis said.
Takano added, "This appointment is bigger than any one party."
They also said it was irrelevant that in the past, some Democratic senators had called for blocking Republican nominees toward the end of a president's term, such as Chuck Schumer in 2007, when George W. Bush was president, or Joe Biden, now the vice president, in 1992, when Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, held the office. The Senate has always done its duty and voted on the president's Supreme Court nominee, regardless of what individual senators have said, Takano said.
That doesn't mean the Senate is under a mandate to confirm the president's nominee, he added. "They should at least have a hearing," he said. "They should at least consider an appointment by the president."
The #FillTheSeat campaign will focus on immigration tomorrow, Helmstetter said. The issues to be addressed the remainder of the week will be announced later, he said.
Watch the LGBT rights video below.