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.