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Supreme Court Nominee John Roberts: Gay Rights Champion?

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Under the surface a rare firestorm of dissent is brewing within the Republican Party. To squelch the dissent, Republicans are spinning like mad to put to rest the notion, any notion, that John Roberts might be tolerant of Americans who are gay.

The Los Angles Times revealed last week that Supreme Court nominee Roberts once volunteered his time, pro bono, on behalf of gay rights in the case Romer v. Evans. As a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Roberts helped prepare lawyers who successfully challenged a Colorado law that specifically exempted gays from state anti-discrimination measures.

According to the reports, Roberts helped develop the winning legal strategy and prepared Jean Dubofsky, the lead lawyer for the gay rights groups, for the tough questioning that might come her way. “Roberts was just terrifically helpful in meeting with me and spending some time on the issue,” Dubofsky said. “He seemed to be very fair-minded and very astute.”

Roberts was not compelled to volunteer his time to this cause, but still it does not prove conclusively that Roberts championed the result they obtained either. Hogan & Hartson encourages pro bono work, but it does not compel its lawyers to take cases that they find morally repugnant, especially in the case of a lawyer of Roberts stature. Clearly, a lawyer of the mindset of say, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson would have roundly refused to help other lawyers win the Romer case.

Thus, there is some evidence existing now that John Roberts does not harbor prejudice and bigotry against gay men and lesbians, as are the stated policies of the Bush administration and the current incarnation of the Republican Party.

The White House and its allies, shocked by the implications of moderation, set out on a quest that can only be defined in one way: To put to rest any doubt of Roberts tolerance, and prove that John Roberts is a bigot.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, pointed out that Roberts had spent less than 10 hours working on the gay rights case, as if it was just a temporary slip or youthful indiscretion.

Jay Sekulow, a leader in the movement to establish a narrow Christian theocracy in America, told his constituency that there’s a high degree of “collegiality” in Appellate Court practice. He is implying that those that know the practice would regard his actions as trivial and unimportant, sort of like holding the door for a liberal as she walked out of a building.

Sean Rushton, director of the right-wing Committee for Justice, acted if the pro bono work by Roberts never took place, and called it a “red herring” meant to divide the right. I would assume by dividing the right, he meant between bigots and non-bigots.

Focus on the Family, the premier hate organization masking itself in religious dogma, portrayed Roberts as a helpless, powerless puppet of his law firm. “That’s what lawyers do — represent their firm’s clients, whether they agree with what those clients stand for or not,” it said in a statement.

It is clear why the Republicans and their allies have begun a campaign to prove that John Roberts is an intolerant man. To a large extent, the conservative movement in this country has been tied to homophobia and bigotry. The “southern strategy” which is still alive, has morphed into an additional “gay bashing” strategy, and any threat to that strategy on the Supreme Court will anger and alienate their base.

The White House rushing to assure their constituencies that Roberts is not a tolerant man is both disgusting and beyond the pale. In the end, this tying of Republicanism to the lost cause of bigotry will earn the scorn of future generations. In the meantime, though, it puts Roberts in a bind to renounce Romer once and for all. Maybe he could go out and beat up some “fags” at a gay pride parade to win back the full support of his base.

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About Balletshooz

  • (throwing tomatoes at the computer)

    Temple Shark, so I can assume your definition of “far right” or “Extreme Right Winger” is: Someone who disagrees with my beliefs.

  • they share a room with far wrong.

    Thank you. Thank you. A few less tomatoes please. Thank you.

    I’m NOT here all night.

    – Temple

  • Dave, what is your definition of “far right”?

  • One man’s stooge is another man’s stooge user. It’s not at all clear whether the Bushes are the stooges or whether the far right loonies are their stooges.


  • Hey Cerulean, What is your definition of “extreme” right winger.

    That’s Right

  • Although they might not personally be extreme right wingers, Dubya and his father were more than willing to be stooges for the extreme right. Dubya could not have been more effective in pursuing their goals if he was.

    This could be a purposeful leak. It could be an attempt to divide and conquer.

  • “The President is looking for his place in history.”

    Giving over 50 Million PEOPLE the right to vote for the first time already puts his name in a good spot in the History books.

    The Elephant hasn’t been had. Roberts was a lawyer and lawyers will defend or prosecute any case that will give them a name or money. So just because he defended some gay rights doesn’t mean he supports gay marriage.

  • Richard

    Hot damn! The elephants appear to have been had. I will never give “W” the credit for this one, just look at the rest of his looney tune appointments.

  • Amen, Druxxx. If a group, religious or otherwise, wants to enjoy tax exempt status then any and all financial records should be transparent for public scrutinty. If this President wants faith based initiatives, we can begin by the faith based organizations taking the initiative to have enough faith to open the books for examination.

  • It is one thing to allow hate speech because of the first amendment, but to give a group of bigots tax exempt status is just wrong.

    We can debate what constitutes hate speech till the cows come home. I just think when it is obvious, they should loose their tax exempt status.

    To discriminate is to hate. To give one group of people rights and deny them to others is hate. To tell someone their lifestyle should be against the law is to hate.

    You can’t hide behind the wall of religion. Freedom of religion should not give you freedom to hate.

  • I like the idea of using their own tactics against them to expose the funding of these groups.

    At the same time we can’t have the government deciding which groups are hate groups and which aren’t and taking away tax exempt status on that basis. They could very well decide that all churches preach hate, or that mosques are hate groups, or that the Nation of Islam – which actually does some good work – is a hate group. Even hate groups have a right to be tax exempt if all they’re doing is exercising free speech, however hateful that speech is – so long as they’re not making a profit.


  • Mr. Nalle: “I didn’t actually say that.”

    I know, but Mr. Sussman did. The phrase to which you are objecting was addressed to him specifically. Look at the comment again.

    Mr. Kain, that is an awesome idea! Count me in, and once there is more concrete info, I can get in touch with my Soulforce colleagues to see if there is interest in participating. Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

  • Here’s the 4-1-1 on Public Advocate of the United States:

    On July 20, 2006 Public Advocate President Eugene Delgaudio praised the President’s decision on the Roberts nomination:

    “Public Advocate plans to stand by this nominee as he will be inevitably attacked by these radical Senators and the far-left special interest groups that see the Court as the only way to advance their political agenda because of their rejection by the American voters.”

    Twenty one days later the family friendly Delgaudio announces that the organization withdraws its support of Roberts because he “an appalling act of judicial activism.” Mr. Delgaudio claims that his Falls Church, VA based organization is completely pro-family when truth be told it is nothing more than a machine created to crush the activities of any individual or group who does not subscribe to ultra conservative platforms. The organization enjoys a tax exempt status while it systematically commits character assassination of any pro-gay politician. Time to follow the money trail, folks, and see who contributes to any and all non-profit 501(c)4 organizations. I’m not limiting this to the hate groups like the one I mentioned, either. The financial records of all organizations that enjoy tax exempt status should be required to forfeit the right to privacy. Every penny that is taken in and spent should be accounted for and made transparent for the public’s review.

  • billy

    Ill be glad to help. Keep up the effort and when that time starts approaching ill go to some of the other blogs and ask them to help too.

  • gonzo marx

    or it raises the spectre that what Mr Nalle supposes is exactly what we are wanted to think…

    don’t know, hate speculating, don’t like stealth candidates with no record..


  • OK, billy, I’m on to something here. We will call it the 4-1-1 March. It can take place on Easter Sunday – April 11, 2006 beginning at the Baptist HQ in Falls Church. From there, we march all the way to the Capitol. For a march like this it would take 3 – 4 hours to complete the 8.5 mile stretch. We can have representatives from every state and the 4-1-1 March is to send a message to Washington that enough is enough. There’s something poetic about having this on Easter Sunday. It’s as if those of us who have been buried for so long could rise from the tombs of our captivity.

  • billy

    That is a fantastic idea Silas. I am waiting for some religious folk to stand up and answer some of the rhetoric of Dobson, Falwell, etc, that is in the mainstream media that claims to stand for all christians. I know alot of devout christians and their hearts are probably broken that poverty, social justice, tolerance, health, nature, and peace are not bigger priorities associated with christianity.

  • Sounds like the dumbasses just guaranteed his approval. How they could even come to that conclusion based on the tiny amount of evidence about Roberts totally peripheral involvement in that case is truly mystifying, but I’m glad they did. Raises a certain amount of hope that he’s going to be a reasonable presence on the bench.


  • I’ve decided that it’s time for those of us who are determined to faciltate real change should begin by standing outside the Baptist World Alliance in Falls Church, VA. From there we could march 8.5 miles to the Nation’s Capitol where we can have a huge rally on the mall. That could be the kickoff to the 2006 mid term elections. And to really piss off the bigots we can sing “We Shall Overcome” all the way to the Rotunda while carrying paper mache crosses decorated in pansies.

  • Taloran

    You can just hear the bile spewing out of them, even in that thankfully brief piece you quoted, Silas.

    support for the radical homosexual lobby…
    overturned a pro-family law…
    appalling act of judicial activism

  • Public Advocate of the United States withdrew its support of the Roberts nomination this morning saying:

    “The move comes as a result of Roberts’ support for the radical homosexual lobby in the 1996 Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans, which overturned a pro-family law passed by the citizens of Colorado in an appalling act of judicial activism.”

    Here’s another hate mongering organization exempt from federal taxation under IRS section 501(c)4 and is based in Falls Church, VA which is quickly becoming the nation’s capitol for bigotry and hatred.

  • >>I would disagree with your statement that a gay couple’s relationship can’t be a marriage.<< I didn't actually say that. I said that it shouldn't be recognized as a marriage by the state, but that no marriages should be recognized by the state. I did go on to say that gay or hetero couples should be able to get a civil union from the state AND be married in whatever church was willing to do the ceremony for them. Dave

  • Bravo, Mr.Nalle. I agree completely. However, legal marriage — apart from religious marriage — exists in the here and now. As long as it does, it is immoral and un-American to bar gays from it.

    Mr. Sussman, the highest-ranking pols, I believe, would be Barney Frank and Dennis Kucinich. Democratic presidential candidates Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun came out in favor of marriage equality as well.

    I would disagree with your statement that a gay couple’s relationship can’t be a marriage. A childless het couple can get married. Again, religion is not the issue here. Many people get married legally without churches being involved. And many churches *have* married same-gender couples (and those marriages are legal in Massachusetts, though not in the backward 49). You appear to be limiting your definition of marriage to that accepted by certain strains of religious thought. That is not at issue here. We are talking about marriage in the legal sense only. Under that parameter, same-gender couples should have the same ability that het couples have. It’s only right.

  • billy

    let the floodgates open!

    (AP) WASHINGTON A conservative group in Virginia said Tuesday it was withdrawing its support for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ confirmation because of his work helping overturn a Colorado referendum on gays.

  • Balletshooz

    “the best solution to the gay marriage issue is for the government to stop recognizing all marriages of any kind and only recognize civil unions for couples of whatever gender mix.”

    You hit the nail right on the head. Marriage “ceremonies” are religious issues, done in a church. If your pastor approves gay marriage he should have the first amendment religious freedom to perform a religious marriage ceremony.

    Marriage licenses are “administrative”. It is just a goivernmental piece of papaer. the “marriage” is already done, so if the paper is filed as a “civil union” or “marriage license” doesnt matter as long as the EPC is not violated.

  • I’m with you Dave. I believe that ‘marriages’ should be registered with the local governments for the purposes that are quite obvious. Since marriage is being touted as an institution created by God, then it becomes incumbent upon a secular government to find an alternative word for marriage. In this case civil unions fit the bill.

    I have done a complete 180 on my position with regard to gay marriage. While I feel it is a devisive issue and there are other things more important that require our attention, I can no longer allow this issue to sit on the back burner. It’s a civil rights issue, plain and simple. It’s not about water fountains, seats on busses or sports teams — it’s about respecting the rights and privacy of two consenting adults who enter into a contract committing to each other. It’s legal here in Massachusetts. God hasn’t torched the state to the ground. Our Mormon governor, as demonic as he may be, still stands strong.

  • I’m against constitutional amendments on principle. But I still think the best solution to the gay marriage issue is for the government to stop recognizing all marriages of any kind and only recognize civil unions for couples of whatever gender mix. Then, if the couple wants to get ‘married’ too they can do it in a church that does such things. In fact, I think government recognition of marriage is a violation of the separation of church and state.


  • The following isn’t fact, just my one-sixth-billion, therefore doubling the power of Gonzo + Suss:

    Agreed: Shame on anyone who “derides” same sex relationships. I applaud it. It’s love. It’s not marriage.

    Nor am I in favor of a federal ban or even a state ban. A state Constitution ban was put under my nose, I voted no, but the decision is close enough for me to touch. There’s a lot I don’t understand about the issue, primarily because I notice so many unknown variables. And if they want to marry just so companies have to offer spousal benefits, then let them have benefits.

    By the same token I think marriage should be even more protected, so that a man and woman can’t just waltz into a city hall and walk out with a new legal status. Something has to be done about that divorce rate. (I blame J-Lo and Larry King.)

    But I work in the morning, and it’s way too late for me to be on Blogcritics at this point. But we will continue this good convo sometime in the near future on an undoubtedly similar thread.

    Same bat time, same bat website… and I will probably sneak on the computer at work tomorrow and mindlessly type away in the comment box like I always do.

    Night all.

  • gonzo marx

    the analogy isn’t complete..i will readily admit

    perhps woman’s voting is closer…but still not the same

    it’s a unique thing…as to it being a states issue…there is that whole federal bit, each state has to recognize things from other states…a marriage liscense woudl fall into that category…hence why the recent decision in Mass was fought against so strongly…

    no easy answer here…i just don’t see how it hurts anyone to let these folks get married, one would think that a committed relationship between these people would be applauded, not denied and derided…

    just my one sixth billionths of the world’s Opinion…


  • Natalie, who is the highest profile politician who has come out boldly in favor of marriage for all?

  • I might go Natalie actually one better on this situation. I could imagine this situation being a diversionary tactic by Roberts himself. The main thing that makes me suspicious of him is his seeming totally resolute ambition. He’s been SO careful not to say anything interesting his entire career, as if he had his eye on this SCOTUS job his whole life.

    I don’t know the man’s heart, but I’d find it easy to believe that he would devote 10 hours to a left wing cause that he didn’t particularly care about as a chit for just this situation. It would be like anti-Borking insurance, consciously making himself harder to attack from the left.

  • True, it’s about equality, and there are a lot of such issues that have gone to the states (driving laws, statutory rape, prostitution, death penalty).

    Different states have different needs. Plus if issues come to the state I have more clout in what happens to my neck of the woods.

    Plus, this isn’t very comparable to 1960’s minority civil rights. Gays share our buses, drinking fountains, restaurants, schools, voting privileges, and baseball leagues.

    And if there was a same sex version of the Black Panthers, we would know about it from the Bravo Channel.

  • gonzo marx

    ok..maybe i can say it better this way..

    no matter who performs the ceremony, or what “vows” are exchanged..it is still the town/city that issues the “Marriage Liscense”

    my position is that consenting adults should be able to get that Liscense…with all the rights and responsibilities that come along with it

    churches don’t have to go along with it…it’s the civil rights of the folks involved i’m talking about here, not the “rituals” or the religious bits…

    hope that makes it clearer


  • Plenty of non-homosexuals support equality for all, Mr. Sussman. I firmly believe — and yes, I am queer, but plenty of hets agree with me — that any president qualified for office would take immediate action (perhaps in the form of an executive order) to insititute equality for all under law and leave discrimination to churches inclined to bar certain people from their rites. Any qualified public servant would do whatever it took to make an honest nation out of America.

  • gonzo marx

    no Matt…not trying to make any implications for your own views, merely attempting to feebly express my own

    my thought is that it is an equal rights issue, falling in the civil rights category..

    as we found out with, oh let’s say, blacks up until the 60’s…leaving civil rights decisions up to states doesn’t work out well..

    that was my point there…humans in america get a certain amont of civil rights…i think same sex folks are just wanting the same ones for themselves

    that make it any clearer?


  • So … if I think it should be up to the state, then I don’t believe gays are human beings?

    Does that mean if you think it should be up to Congress, then you are a homosexual yourself?

  • gonzo marx

    so Matthew..you don’t think it is a civil rights issue?

    that’s how it works out to me..you know, good old equal rights under the Law, the whole “pursuit of Happiness” thing…

    last i checked, same sex folks were still human…

    silly of me, i know..


  • Yepper. I don’t trust him. For my own sake and, even more importantly, for the sakes of my children and the world, I can’t.

  • Agreed. I’m against a constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. It’s a state’s right issue.

    And what if he moderately speaking in public but secretly in favor of hard right religious and conservative values?

    IMO, scarier and sneakier.

  • gonzo marx

    but you do admit that the Shrub has stated publicly he would go for an actual Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage?

    i do understand that much of what he has said in private is quite moderate…unfortunatly, it’s what he DOES in public, using his Office, that scares the shit out of some folks

    pardon me for not trusting the slimy pigfucker farther than i can throw Texas with my dick…

    did i say that out loud?


  • Just because he says something does not make it so. If Dubya approves of limits on equality for a subset of the citizenry, IMO, he is anti-gay. So is anyone who agree with him. If all are supposed to be treated equally under law, in order for America to be what it claims to be, everyone has to be treated equally under law. This semantics BS is a smokescreen to cover the current state of America and the lie that equality for all under law exists. If everyone was equal under law, there would be marriage equality under civil law (leaving churches to do what they will for their rites). Or civil union would be the only option available to couples who marry at city halls or offices for justices of the peace. Anything less is not equal, period. And if there isn’t real equality (not merely “functional equality,” which is a steel-toed kick in the groin), everything else doesn’t matter.

  • Except that he has publicly said he is not anti-gay and in favor of functional equality. The only point where he falls short of everything a gay voter could want is in endorsing actual gay marriage. And on that score he’s with the vast majority of the population. Most people would like to see gays in committed civil relationships recognized by law and with all the attendant benefits. They just want them differentiated on a purely semantic basis from traditional marriage. That’s Bush’s position as well, and while I realize it’s not 100% perfect, it puts him far, far beyond being a bigot on the issue of gay rights, as was stated in the article.


  • I understand what you’re saying, Mr. Nalle, but Dubya is also on record as being in support of amending the constitution to forbid marriage equality across the land, which, if passed, would supersede states’ rights. It’s a fact that whatever he may think or say behind closed doors, publicly he is anti-gay and against equality for all under civil law.

  • Silas, your comments in #7 are so dead on that it’s scary. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only person who realizes this. All you have to do is look back through some of Bush’s history to find quotes like the ones I used above to demonstrate how moderate he really is.


  • >>Thus, there is some evidence existing now that John Roberts does not harbor prejudice and bigotry against gay men and lesbians, as are the stated policies of the Bush administration and the current incarnation of the Republican Party.<< Beautiful lie, Balletshooz. Just brilliant. Do you know what George W. Bush's stated position on homosexuality and gay marriage is? Here are some quotes. On homosexuality: "I do know that we have a choice to make in America and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. It's important that we do that. I also know in a free society people, consenting adults can live the way they want to live. And that's to be honored." On civil unions: " "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so." Sure sounds like a bigot to me. Well, someone does anyway - not Bush, but the nom de blog begins with 'B'. Dave

  • billy

    this just in, from one news article:

    Roberts met Tuesday with one senator who is undecided on his nomination, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who said the nominee “would not look favorably” on Congress acting to intervene in an end-of-life case like Terri Schiavo.

    Wyden said Roberts told him during their hourlong meeting that Congress can prescribe standards, “but when Congress starts to act like a court and prescribe particular remedies in particular cases, Congress has overstepped its bounds,” Wyden said.

    Maybe he isnt loony. How did Scalia vote in the Schiavo case?

  • When I first heard about Roberts’ work on the No on 2 campaign, I had my reservations. I still do. Looks too much like a diversion tactic to me. They know that ultimately the right-wingers will side with them. However much the fundies wail, the Shrubbies know they have them in their pocket. But if they can convince some lefties to let down their guard and give a nod to Roberts, they win and hail a “bipartisan victory.” I don’t buy it. Smells like the work of Rove-ian thinking to me.

  • Balletshooz, I thought you plagiarized this column from Daniel Cohen at first.

    But you did link to it, although you misled us to believe that some of your statements were in your own words. They are not.

    It’s borderline. Shame on you, and be more careful next time.

  • Balletshooz

    He can definitely play that game. He has that ability to fire up those voters who believe strongly on those issues (gay marriage, abortion), then amazingly he does very little toward the issues once he is in office besides lip service. I think you might be right.

  • Be hopeful, Balletshooz. As someone who has followed Barbara Bush closely over the years I have come to learn that she is quite a reasonable woman who plays the game very well. Remember, she is a descendant of a President and has grown up in the political world. G.W. Bush has always been looked upon as having been influenced more by his mother than anyone. I don’t think we wants Roe overturned at all. I think he plays the game and will continue to do so until he leaves office.

  • billy

    i hope so too. well all have to cross our fingers because it is doubtful anything meaningful will come out on this guy in the senate before he is inevitably confirmed.

  • In today’s NY DAILY NEWS, columnist Richard Cohen addresses this matter. In part he says,

    “Specifically, he seems to harbor no prejudice against gays and lesbians who are, as we all know, anathemas to social conservatives who are anti-gay and pro-Bush, in about equal measures of enthusiasm. Roberts, amazingly and inexplicably, seems to be a man of tolerance.”

    I’m no big fan of Roberts, but this story makes me think he might be better than anyone thought (at least if you’re not on the far right).

    The full Cohen article can be found here

  • Balletshooz

    I agree, Bush is smarter than people realize. In essence he is a real good actor, he plays a dumb, tough, cowboy on TV and, like a horror movie where the viewer gets scared even though it isnt real, people buy it and sort of forget he is a rich, son-of-a-president, who went to yale, and worked on a political campaign instead of going to Vietnam.

    You may be right about Bush, but I believe he truly wants to overturn Roe and he is doing this with that goal in mind, and that is what potentially is troubling about Roberts to me.

  • Actually, I am leaning more toward believing that President Bush is far less conservative than he leads his minions to believe. G.W. Bush and his henchman Karl Rove are opportunists. They saw an opening, grabbed hold of it, and made it their own. If that is actually what happened I will be the first to say that G.W. Bush is a more brilliant politician than I ever gave him credit for. Now, you may ask yourselves why I am coming to this conclusion. Do the research. He is Barbara Bush’s son far more than the son of George Herbert Walker Bush. Matron Mamma Bush is shrewd. And, for the record, she is far more liberal than the conservatives would let on. The President is looking for his place in history. Even he nows that a fascist conservative would reduce his Administration’s historical stature.

  • Balletshooz

    Good point, maybe Bush is playing us for fools. The Romer case, however, and Roberts’ participation in it was left off his disclosure form for Congress and only later discovered.

    But the right, mostly isnt fighting, they are keeping tight lipped and “crossing their fingers”. Although it does make it a little harder for the left to attack him.

  • is it just me or does this seem like its extremely well calculated by the Bush administration. Basically he’s got us supporting Roberts because the people that are attacking him (radical conservative groups) are our enemies. THe dialog here is no longer about “is he good for the court” and is now “look at the republicans fighting each other”. Great diversion that I’m sure the bush team knew would happen.

  • billy

    “I continue to think that Mr. Roberts will make a fine Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”

    we know so little about this guy, its hard to say.

    on some issues he was to the right of ted olsen. on others he helped out gay rights cases.

    where exactly does he stand?

  • I continue to think that Mr. Roberts will make a fine Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I don’t agree with all he stands for but I do believe that his passion for the Constitution overrides any personal dogma. We should be more concerned about the replacement for Justice Rehnquist. President Bush made an informed decision on nominating Judge Roberts that I support wholeheartedly.

  • billy

    i wonder if there is any relevance to the fact it was pro bono. couldnt he have got out of it if he really hated gays? maybe he isnt a bigot, but Bush has never failed to dissapoint, so I wouldnt be too sure of it.

  • alethinos59

    Wow… The Repugnants might seriously pull something, or several somethings trying to both back pedal and forward pedal and side step this thing… Call the stretcher bearer now – I can see a DOUBLE groin pull on this one!