WASHINGTON — The National Organization for Women today broke from the cautious approach of liberal groups toward Judge Anthony M. Kennedy's Supreme Court nomination, vowing to oppose a nominee NOW considers "a disaster" on women's issues.
NOW President Molly Yard told reporters that a study of half a dozen of the appellate judge's more than 400 opinions had convinced her organization that he is "a sexist, a person unwilling to help women in the struggle for equality" and one with ambiguous views on privacy rights.
"It's truly unacceptable to be a sexist and to sit on the Supreme Court," Yard said.
At the same time, the Senate Judiciary Committee appeared on the verge of setting a timetable for confirmation hearings.
Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., who met with White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. and committee members, said the most likely timetable would be to start hearings about Jan. 20, have a committee vote about Feb. 2 and begin floor debate about Feb. 5.
A mid-December hearing date also remained under consideration, Biden said, but the earlier start would not change the floor schedule.
A broad coalition of civil rights, civil liberties and women's groups waged an all-out fight against President Reagan's first nominee for the court vacancy, Robert H. Bork.
But the same groups have not taken positions on Kennedy, urging a go-slow approach until they complete a study of his record. Yard said she hopes the other groups will soon join NOW in opposition.
Will Respond Later
Kennedy, making the rounds at Senate offices today, was asked about NOW's position and said, "I'll be glad to respond to that at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing." Asked whether his wife thinks he is sexist, he replied, "I'll have to talk to my wife about that."
Yard said her group was especially upset at Kennedy's ruling against female workers in the state of Washington, who sought equality in pay with men holding comparable jobs.
Kennedy wrote the decision in 1985 for a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has served for 12 years.
"He paid not the slightest attention to findings of fact," which, Yard said, showed that discrimination did exist.
Disparity in Pay
Kennedy said the disparity in pay, without proof of a discriminatory motive, does not violate a federal law banning on-the-job sex bias.
"It is evident . . . that Congress, after explicit consideration, rejected proposals that would have prohibited lower wages for comparable work as contrasted with equal work," he wrote.
He said the state could not be held responsible for "an inequality which it did not create," adding that "neither law nor logic deems the free market a suspect enterprise."
Yard also criticized a 1980 Kennedy opinion involving homosexuals in the Navy. He ruled against a challenge by three sailors to the service's former policy of giving automatic discharges to those engaging in homosexual activity.