Monday, November 07, 2005

Alito must prove he'll respect constitutional rights of gays

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Op-Ed from the Detroit News: Alito must prove he'll respect constitutional rights of gays By Deb Price / The Detroit News Monday, November 7, 2005 As schoolchildren, all of us learned to pledge allegiance to a country that promises "liberty and justice for all." Unfortunately, Americans are rarely taught that one of the surest ways to jeopardize our precious rights and freedoms is to allow the wrong people to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1992, the constitutional right to abortion--first recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973 by a strong 7-to-2 majority -- was teetering on the brink of being lost. Retirements had already shifted the balance to 5 to 4. And Justice Harry Blackmun, chief protector of abortion rights, poignantly wailed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: "I am 83 years old. I cannot remain on this court forever." Blackmun departed after the Roe majority grew back to six. If Bush nominee Samuel Alito takes moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's place, that majority could shrink to only five. Alito's confirmation would also likely leave the constitutional rights of gay Americans dangling by one very old thread: John Paul Stevens, a steadfast advocate of equal justice for all. Justice Stevens is 85. He cannot remain on the court forever. If Alito is confirmed and Stevens doesn't outlast President Bush, the nation's top court will almost certainly revert to being extremely hostile territory for gay Americans, despite hard-won 6-3 victories in Romer (1996) and Lawrence (2003) that wrapped those of us who are gay in the Constitution's protective embrace. O'Connor's successor will undoubtedly play a critical role in landmark decisions affecting the rights of gay soldiers, gay parents, gay workers and gay couples. Alito's long record as a federal judge contains warnings:
  • In a 1991 dissent, Alito argued a Pennsylvania law requiring husbands to be notified before wives had abortions was constitutional. Does that mean he'll toss out privacy protections?
  • Alito rulings made it harder for workers to prove race or sex discrimination.
  • In 2001, he authored a ruling in striking down a school policy against anti-gay harassment and other types of verbal abuse.
  • In his 2004 majority opinion declaring that husbands -- but not boyfriends or fiances -- of women forced to have abortions in other countries could get U.S. asylum, he recognized the uniqueness of marriage. Does his respect for marriage extend to Massachusetts' lawfully wedded gay couples?
Bush nominee Harriet Miers dropped out after failing to clear the first hurdle: basic competence. Alito won't have that problem. But the advise and consent role our forefathers entrusted to the Senate means it has a duty to ensure that Supreme Court nominees are confirmed to a lifelong appointment only if they demonstrate the desire to read the Constitution's grand promises with wise and generous eyes. Alito's record suggests that he would steer our nation in the wrong direction. The fact that 55 percent of Americans in a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll declared that Bush's presidency has been a failure should embolden wavering senators. They should reject Alito if his hearings signal that he'd live up to his nickname of "Scalito." What the Supreme Court needs is a new member dedicated to strengthening and expanding liberty and justice for all. You can reach Deb Price at (202) 662-8736 or Original Source: click here