Gay Advocates Eye Supreme Court

Virginia Linder, Kathleen Sullivan, Barack Obama, Scotus

In 2004, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously struck down an effort to legalize same-sex marriage even though one of its justices -- Rives Kistler -- was openly gay.

Today, with his lesbian colleague Virginia Linder, there are two such justices in Oregon, in part because of the political efforts of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an advocacy group that seeks to put openly gay candidates in public office.

Now, they have set their eyes on the Supreme Court, where rumors surfaced this week that two highly qualified lesbians had made President Barack Obama's initial list to replace Justice David Souter.

With gay marriage now legal in five states, including heartland regions like Iowa and Maine, many activists feel that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) representation on the Court is within their reach.

Supreme Court: Mostly Straight Males

"There have been 110 Supreme Court judges and 106 of them have been straight, white men," said Denis Dison, vice president of the Victory Fund. "So it's high time to look outside those institutions that produced Supreme Court justices in the past and find someone with different life experiences and different perspectives."

"No one should be barred because of their sexual orientation," he told ABCNews.com.

Obama has said his appointee would make the court more "diverse" and that he was looking for a justice with "empathy" -- something that conservatives fear might mean having a gay agenda.

"For us in Oregon, [a judge's sexual orientation has] been a real non-issue," said Margie Paris, dean of the University of Oregon Law School.

"We hope they are more sensitive to issues because of their life experiences, but at the same time, expect them not to have a single outlook on life -- that everything has to go my way."

But, said Paris, "It's a fair thing to ask anybody, regardless of their sexual orientation, What are your agendas? That is fair game when you are going to the Supreme Court."

Obama Open to Gays

Obama has already proven that he is open to gay judicial appointments.

In March, Obama named an open lesbian, Emily Hewitt, to be the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and another lesbian, Maria Demeo, to serve as a D.C. Superior Court judge.

According to the Victory Fund, the president has made 40 appointments of openly gay people in prominent positions, though none at the Cabinet level.

Even though the president set off a firestorm among gay groups when he chose evangelical Rick Warren to lead the prayer at his inauguration, gay groups say he has come a long way in the first 100 days.

"Obama's got about 7,000 appointments to make, and this is just the beginning," Dison told ABCNews.com. "For a long time, gay people could not be open about their lives and serve honesty."

Although Obama was silent as the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on gay marriage, he has said he is a "fierce advocate" for gay rights, urging Congress to pass a hate crimes bill and repeal the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" rule.

LGBT Community Gives President 'High Grades'

"Judging against his predecessors, Obama gets really high marks," said Dison. "He is incredibly inclusive, open and has made sure that LGBT people are represented in his administration."

"People are getting a little tired of hearing he is personally opposed to gay marriage and thinks it's a state's issue," he said. "The rapid change we are seeing right now gives hope for his leadership."

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