Sunday, May 15, 2005

Just a Helpful Reminder

Since the filibuster / 'nuclear option' debate will likely reach a feverish pitch this week, I think it might be helpful to remind ourselves what this particular fight is about. On one level, yes, it is about abortion -- namely, getting anti-abortion judges into the federal benches. And, yes, it is also about religion -- that is, getting prayer-friendly judges their federal gavels and robes. There is bound to be debate about the former; and I sare say an even larger majority of Americans are in favor of the latter. And on one level, I can abide both. But lest we forget, and this is where my willingness to be level-headed exits through the nearest window, it is also about the gays.

Frank Rich, in an otherwise unextraordinary column, explains:

Today's judge-bashing firebrands often say that it isn't homosexuality per se that riles them, only the potential legalization of same-sex marriage by the courts. That's a sham. These people have been attacking gay people since well before Massachusetts judges took up the issue of marriage, Vermont legalized civil unions or Gavin Newsom was in grade school. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, characterizes the religious right's anti-gay campaign as a 30-year war, dating back to the late 1970's, when the Miss America runner-up Anita Bryant championed the overturning of an anti-discrimination law protecting gay men and lesbians in Dade County, Fla., and the Rev. Jerry Falwell's newly formed Moral Majority issued a "Declaration of War" against homosexuality. A quarter-century later these views remained so unreconstructed that Mr. Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson would go so far as to pin the 9/11 attacks in part on gay men and lesbians - a charge they later withdrew but that Mr. Robertson repositioned just two weeks ago. In response to a question from George Stephanopoulos, he said he now believes that activist judges are a more serious threat than Al Qaeda.

[. . .]

Which judges do these people admire? Their patron saint is the former Alabama chief justice Roy S. Moore, best known for his activism in displaying the Ten Commandments; in a ruling against a lesbian mother in a custody case, Mr. Moore deemed homosexuality "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature" and suggested that the state had the power to prohibit homosexual "conduct" with penalties including "confinement and even execution." Another hero is William H. Pryor Jr., the former Alabama attorney general whose nomination to the federal bench was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A Pryor brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography. It was Justice Anthony Kennedy's eloquent dismissal of such vitriol in his 2003 majority opinion striking down the Texas statute that has since made him the right's No. 1 judicial piñata.

Keep this in mind every time you hear the use of 'give them the courtesy of an up or down vote', or 'constitutional option', or any of the myriad slurs cast against sitting 'activist' judges.