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May 8, 2009

Handicapping the possibility of a gay Supreme Court justice

The New Republic ponders the plausibility of Obama nominating lesbian law scholars Kathleen Sullivan or Pam Karlan to the Court.  As Richard Just writes:

[N]ominating a lesbian to the court would put conservatives in a politically awkward position. As the gay rights battle has come to center more and more on the specific question of marriage, conservatives have frequently insisted that they are not anti-gay, just opposed to gays getting married. Conservatives are attached to this distinction because they know that, without it, they end up looking like bigots. But if they decide to make an issue of a Supreme Court nominee's sexual orientation, they would effectively be conceding that this distinction was a lie. (After all, could there be any more baldly anti-gay political maneuver than bashing a Supreme Court nominee because of her sexual orientation?) Given that most Americans are no longer comfortable with transparent homophobia (while conservatives still have the majority on same-sex marriage, liberals enjoy majorities on various other gay-rights questions, such as workplace discrimination), it would be a risky move for conservatives to toss aside their cherished distinction between anti-gay sentiment and anti-gay-marriage sentiment. So maybe they would think twice about raising sexual orientation during a confirmation battle. And if they decided to do it anyway, it could become one of those defining moments where the American political center gets a glimpse at the fundamental ugliness undergirding a particular crusade--and turns decisively in the other direction.


-SS

May 8, 2009 | Permalink

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