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May 5, 2009

An openly gay justice for the Supreme Court?

Kathleen Sullivan, a top New York appellate lawyer, constitutional scholar, and former dean of Stanford Law School, has landed on most people's lists of possible Obama Supreme Court appointees.  What's less known about Sullivan is that she is a lesbian: see coverage at gaypolitics.com, Politico, and thenewgay.net

After Obama's relative neglect of gays and lesbians during the presidential campaign, his embrace of conservative pastor Rick Warren, his ambiguous reaction to the Iowa marriage decision, and his lack of action on gay issues thus far as president, the appointment of a supremely qualified openly gay woman would no doubt improve his lukewarm relationship with the community.

Obama is on record as supporting civil unions and expanded federal benefits for same-sex couples, but as opposed to equal marriage rights, a position he has explained (oddly, for a former constitutional law professor) in terms of his personal views, rather than his understanding of what the law requires.  Still, Obama knows constitutional law like few presidents before him.  Who among us would not love to listen into this job interview?

According to gaypolitics.com, Sullivan filed amicus briefs in Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas. Something that might attract more attention is that she also wrote the amicus for the American Association of University Professors in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, the case in which law faculty members sought to bar military recruiters because of their discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Sullivan has argued five cases at the Court.

Having met Sullivan at the ABA litigation conference last week in Atlanta, I can testify that she's a lovely person.  She and conservative appellate specialist Ted Olson participated in a panel on Supreme Court litigation, and Olson, noting that Sullivan is considered a possibility for the Court, gave her a vigorous endorsement.


May 5, 2009 | Permalink


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Politico is also reporting that Pam Karlan, also a prof at Stanford and a lesbian, is being considered for the vacancy. Volokh talks about it a bit as well, here: http://volokh.com/posts/1241460905.shtml

A lot has been said about Obama nominating a woman and a minority, but I think few in the mainstream media have considered that the "minority" part of the equation would be an LGBT minority.

Posted by: Regan | May 5, 2009 2:59:30 PM

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