Gay rights activists worry court will tip to right
WASHINGTON Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. took his place on the Supreme Court Tuesday after winning Senate confirmation, alarming gay rights activists who fear the court’s balance will give it a more conservative tilt.
A coalition of national gay rights groups had opposed Alito’s confirmation because of his judicial record and his work for the Reagan Admin-
istration in the 1980s.
“With this confirmation, the Supreme Court likely will shift to the right and become a less welcoming forum for many kinds of civil rights claims,” said Kevin Cathcart, executive director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Alito’s presence on the court represents an unprecedented threat to the “erosion of our rights.”
“It’s deeply disturbing that the Supreme Court has taken a dangerous turn away from fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans,” Solmonese said.
Solmonese said that with Alito’s confirmation, it is more important than ever for members of the nation’s GLBT community to get involved in politics and vote in November.
“Our opportunity to get back on the road to equality comes this November,” Solmonese said. “The senators who stepped up today to protect fairness by voting against Judge Alito’s confirmation were acting on America’s fundamental promise of equality. It’s time the halls of Congress were packed with fair-minded leaders.”
The confirmation of Alito is a personal triumph for the son of an Italian immigrant and a political milestone in President Bush’s campaign to give the judiciary a more conservative cast.
The 58-42 Senate vote was largely along party lines as Democrats registered overwhelming opposition to Bush’s choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose rulings have helped uphold abortion rights, affirmative action and other legal precedents of the past 50 years.
Bush hailed Alito as “a brilliant and fair-minded judge who strictly interprets the Constitution and laws and does not legislate from the bench.”
“It is a seat that is reserved for few but that impacts millions,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist moments before the Senate sealed Alito’s place in history as the nation’s 110th justice.
Lambda Legal’s Cathcart said Alito’s presence makes the struggle for equal rights more difficult for gay Americans, but it does not represent a roadblock.
“It is important for us to remember that the court still contains a majority of justices who ruled in favor of liberty and equality for gay people in Lambda Legal’s two recent Supreme Court successes that are the foundation for much of our community’s progress Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans and those cases remain the law of the land,” Cathcart said.
Alito, 55 and a veteran of 15 years on the appeals court, watched on television alongside Bush at the White House as the Senate voted.
He was sworn in about an hour later in a low-key ceremony at the Supreme Court building across the street from the Capitol. Chief Justice John Roberts, Bush’s first nominee for the high court, administered the oath of office.
Later Tuesday, Alito joined Roberts and fellow Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas at the Capitol to hear Bush’s State of the Union address. Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, also attended.
Alito’s confirmation has been a certainty for days, and all Republicans except Senator. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island voted for him. Only four of 44 Democrats voted in favor of confirmation, the lowest total in modern history for an opposition party.
“There is no consensus that he will allow the court to perform its vital role in continuing the march of progress toward justice and equal opportunity,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, leader in a final attempt to derail the nomination that exposed Democratic divisions instead.
Roberts was confirmed by a far wider margin, 78-22, late last year. Rehnquist.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 3, 2006