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May 17, 2010

Questions about military ban and sexuality dominate key senators' discussion of Kagan

The chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the Kagan Supreme Court nomination on ABC's "This Week" yesterday with host Jake Tapper, and much of the discussion was about Harvard law school's policy refusing to allow the military to recruit students because the military discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.  Republican Jeff Sessions thought it was a big deal:

SESSIONS: I have great concerns about that. That went on for a number of years. It was a national issue. People still remember the debate about it. She -- she reversed the policy. When she became dean, they were allowing the military to come back on campus and had been for a couple of years.

TAPPER: But they were always on campus, right? They just weren't using the Office of Career Services.

SESSIONS: Well, look, yeah, this is no little bitty matter, Jake. She would not let them come to the area that does the recruiting on the campus. They had to meet with some student veterans. And this is not acceptable. It was a big error. It was a national debate. Finally, we passed the Solomon amendment. They really didn't comply with it. Eventually, she joined a brief to try to overturn the Solomon amendment, which was eventually rejected 8-0 by the United States Supreme Court, and she was not in compliance with the law at various points in her tenure, and it was because of a deep personal belief she had that this policy, which was Congress and President Clinton's policy--

Chairman Patrick Leahy countered by sidestepping the gay issue and focusing on Kagan's general attitude toward the military:

LEAHY: Well, this is like in Shakespeare, sound and fury signifying nothing. She -- the recruiters were always on the Harvard campus. She's shown her respect for the veterans there. She every year on Veterans Day, she had a dinner for all the veterans and their families who were there at Harvard. Recruiting went on at Harvard every single day throughout the time she was-- she was there. She was trying to follow Harvard's policy. She was also trying to make sure that students who wanted to go in the military could.

Scott Brown, who is a Republican U.S. senator and a member of the Active Reserves -- he's still in the military -- he met with her and left and said he thought she had high respect for our men and women in uniform, and he had no qualms about that. 

Tapper also asked about the amicus brief Kagan had joined challenging the policy:

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the legal aspect of it, because Chairman Leahy, Senator Sessions points out that when she was dean, she joined a friend of the court brief suing the Pentagon effectively, challenging this law, and it was rejected. That point of view and the friend of the court brief were rejected 8 to nothing by the Supreme Court. That includes Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Stevens saying Elena Kagan, you're wrong, your side is wrong. Now, it was just a friend of the court brief, but doesn't that unanimous verdict basically show that Kagan was expressing her political beliefs and not looking at the rule of law?

LEAHY: You know, if we had -- if we said that any lawyer who ever filed a brief at the Supreme Court, that they couldn't serve on the Supreme Court because the case lost, half the members who are on the Supreme Court today would not be on the Supreme Court.

She stated a position. She challenged the law. The law was upheld, and she said we will follow the law at Harvard. I don't know what else you could ask for.

Finally, Tapper asked about Kagan's sexuality:

TAPPER: I want to move on to another matter. When -- during the Bork hearings, Robert Bork, Senator Sessions, was asked about his personal views of God, whether or not he believed in God. A lot of people thought those questions went too far. In the last few -- in the last week, we were told by the White House that after a blog post went up at CBSnews.com that incorrectly said that Elena Kagan was not straight -- and again, that is not true -- but Elena Kagan went to the White House, said this is not true, I am straight. How far is too far when looking into a nominee's personal life?

SESSIONS: I think you've got to be careful about that. I don't believe that is a fundamental judgment call on whether a person can be a good judge or not. We need to know how able they are to ascertain the real legal issues in a case and deciding it fairly and justly. Will they restrain their personal political views and follow the law faithfully and serve under the Constitution? That's the fundamental test in personal integrity. So those are questions that go to the heart of whether a person will be an able judge or not.

-SS

May 17, 2010 | Permalink

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