by Peter Sprigg
May 13, 2009
Pro-homosexual activist groups like Lambda Legal began pressing President Obama, even before he was inaugurated, to appoint homosexuals as federal judges, and now that there is a Supreme Court vacancy, the possibility of the first “openly gay or lesbian” Supreme Court justice is being discussed in the media and (intensely) in the blogosphere.
Comments by Sen. Jeff Sessions, by a spokesman for Focus on the Family, and by me, suggesting that a history of same-sex attractions would not necessarily, automatically, and a priori disqualify a candidate for the court led a blogger for Politico to ask, “Is [the] right softening on gay judges?”
In that piece, Josh Gerstein contrasted recent comments by Focus on the Family judicial analyst Bruce Hausknecht with a quote of mine from an article about homosexual judges at the state level that appeared in USA Today in 2006. That article quoted me this way:
“We don’t accept that homosexuality is any kind of cultural identity that should be sought in a judge,” says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that opposes same-sex marriage. “We think it’s a behavior, not something that should be held up as a role model.”
That comment has been held up as somehow being in conflict with my comments last week to Jake Tapper of ABC News:
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the conservative Family Research Council, says that “the real issue would not be the person’s private life but the issue would be would they be imposing their personal ideology upon the court. In this case would they be imposing a pro homosexual ideology, a pro-same sex marriage ideology.”
It’s also been contrasted with what I told a blogger, Greg Sargent, who is affiliated with the Washington Post:
“We don’t think that the process of selecting a Supreme Court justice should include asking questions about a person’s personal sex life,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council, told me moments ago.
“But if a person does publicly identify as gay or lesbian, or particularly if a person has been involved with homosexual rights activism at any level, then there would have to be serious questions asked about whether he or she would impose a pro-gay ideology on the court.”
Sprigg added that homosexuality in and of itself would not be a “determinant” against the acceptability of the nominee.
I didn’t even remember the USA Today interview until I saw it quoted, so I went back and reviewed it. The problem with the ostensibly more “hard-line” quote is that those quoting it did not mention that it came immediately after this statement by the reporter:
The effort by gay rights groups to increase the number of openly gay state and local judges has drawn criticism.
Three years later, I remain fully convinced that homosexuality can never be viewed as a positive characteristic in a judge (or in anyone else), so I fully stand by my position that no one should ever be appointed as a judge because they identify as “gay.”
However, those who identified my comments this year as a change in tone from the 2006 interview apparently did not read that article all the way through-since it ended with this:
[G]ay-rights groups … aim to create a “farm team” of judges who could be in position for the federal bench if future presidents are willing to appoint such judges.
Sprigg says his group would fight such an effort. But he says gay judges are acceptable to his group - as long as their sexual orientation isn’t a factor in their work.
“We don’t think we should make an issue of it, if they keep it private,” he says. “If we had reason to believe that they would pursue a pro-homosexual agenda, then we would vigorously oppose them.”
Some of the bloggers commenting on this story have failed to make the distinction between saying conservatives “would not automatically disqualify” a homosexual candidate and saying conservatives “could support” one. The statements about not disqualifying a candidate simply reflect the fact that we believe even Supreme Court nominees deserve some zone of privacy, and acknowledge that there is at least a hypothetical possibility that somewhere in the country there is a judge who has experienced same-sex attractions, but who also respects judicial restraint and the original intent of the Constitution.
In the real world, however, the chances of finding a highly-qualified judge who fits both of those descriptions are probably about equal to the chances of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. So don’t hold your breath waiting for social conservatives to “support” a “gay” judicial nominee.