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Gay Advocacy Groups Oppose Roberts' Nomination to High Court

The judge's record shows that he would not protect their civil rights, they say in a statement.

August 26, 2005|Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Despite John G. Roberts Jr.'s legal help in a landmark Supreme Court victory for gay rights, four leading gay rights organizations said Thursday that they had decided to oppose his nomination to the high court.

The four groups -- the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- argued that the bulk of Roberts' record suggested he would be unsympathetic to gay rights cases.

"His writings as a lawyer, his rulings as a judge and his statements as a policymaker all lead us to the unfortunate conclusion that Judge Roberts would not vote to protect our civil rights from those who are, at this moment, fighting so hard to take them away," the groups said in a joint statement.

White House spokesman Steve Schmidt said the Bush administration was not concerned about the statement because it expected liberal advocacy groups to oppose the nominee.

"There are a great many groups that made a decision a long time ago to oppose whomever President Bush put forward for the Supreme Court," Schmidt said.

As a lawyer in private practice, Roberts advised gay rights advocates and helped them prepare arguments for a case they won before the Supreme Court in 1996. In Romer vs. Evans, the court voted 6 to 3 to strike down a Colorado ballot initiative that would have allowed employers and landlords to exclude gays from jobs and housing.

Roberts' participation in the Romer case, part of his Washington law firm's pro bono work, has caused some concern among religious conservatives who regularly support Bush but oppose granting legal benefits to gays and lesbians.

But gay rights advocates said that Roberts' assistance in the case -- which White House officials estimated at fewer than 10 hours' work -- was not enough to allay concerns raised by the rest of his record. "It's interesting but not especially informative," said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign.

One gay rights organization that did not join the statement is Log Cabin Republicans, which works within the party to advocate for equal rights for gays. In an interview, political director Christopher Barron said his group had not taken a position on Roberts' nomination.

"We are in a wait-and-see mode right now," Barron said, adding that "it's too early to tell" whether his group would decide to support or oppose Roberts. "A lot of this is going to come down to what we hear and what we see during the confirmation hearings."

In their joint statement, the gay rights groups opposing Roberts' nomination said his record indicated he "would vote to roll back the constitutional protections upon which our community -- and all Americans -- rely."

The groups said that the released files covering Roberts' prior government service suggested he was skeptical of the legal rationales that underlie most court rulings cherished by the gay community: the right to privacy and equal protection under the law.

"Ultimately, this is about an individual's right to privacy," Solmonese said. "From women's rights to religious freedom to civil rights, there is powerful evidence that Judge Roberts would rule against equality."

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