As the far-right continues to toss around “Reinhardt’s a radical liberal” claims in order to discredit one of the three members of the 9th Circuit panel tasked with hearing the Prop 8 appeal, we want to stop and offer some brief perspective.
(#1) Reinhardt’s supposed “liberal” record in terms of gay rights really constitutes nothing more than doing the right and principled thing in the face of others’ unfair treatment. Like back in 1976, when Reinhardt served as on the Los Angeles police commission and took on the chief when it came to unfair harassment at gay bars:
Long Beach Independent, 5/21/1976
A commitment o fair and dignified treatment in the face of “powerful lobby” claims. Sounds familiar, huh?
Though (#2), even though Reinhardt does clearly support equality (which again, is just plain right, not right or left), the judge is also on record showing the kind of restraint that should make conservatives happy. Like in 1988, when he dissented from the other two members of a 9th Circuit panel because the law of the land at that time (pre-Lawrence v. Texas) simply wouldn’t allow him to side with how own conscience:
With great reluctance, I have concluded that I am unable to concur in the majority opinion. Like the majority, I believe that homosexuals have been unfairly treated both historically and in the United States today. Were I free to apply my own view of the meaning of the Constitution and in that light to pass upon the validity of the Army’s regulations, I too would conclude that the Army may not refuse to enlist homosexuals. I am bound, however, as a circuit judge to apply the Constitution as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court and our own circuit, whether or not I agree with those interpretations. Because of this requirement, I am sometimes compelled to reach a result I believe to be contrary to the proper interpretation of constitutional principles. This is, regrettably, one of those times.
As the majority points out, Sgt. Watkins has every reason to feel aggrieved. His homosexuality has been well known for many years. During that entire period, his army service has been exemplary. Those who have worked with him, including his supervisors, are anxious to see him continue with his military career. Yet, under the Supreme Court’s (and our own circuit’s) interpretation of the Constitution, the Army is free to terminate that career solely because he is a homosexual. There are only three entities which have the authority to afford Sgt. Watkins the relief which I, like the majority, believe a proper interpretation of the Constitution would require. First, the Supreme Court could undo the damage to the Constitution wrought by Hardwick; it could overrule that precedent directly or implicitly. Second, the Army could voluntarily abandon its unfair and discriminatory regulation (or, I would assume, the Department of Defense could direct it to do so). Third, the Congress could enact appropriate legislation prohibiting the armed services from excluding homosexuals. I recognize that from a practical standpoint the existence of these forums may offer Sgt. Watkins little solace. Nevertheless, I do not believe that a panel of the Ninth Circuit may, consistent with its duty to apply precedent properly, afford him the relief he seeks.
For the above reasons, I must reluctantly dissent.
Sergeant Perry J. Watkins vs. United States Army [9th Circuit]
Funny how the conservatives overlook this highly pertinent example when building their cases against the judge.
But now we’re on to phase (#3), the day when past precedents are lifted and long-held commitments are free to prevail. We’re happy to have Reinhardt on board not because he fits in sort of partisan labels, but because he transcends them.