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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Roberts Helped Gay Legal Effort
by Bob Roehr
2005-08-10

This article shared 2059 times since Wed Aug 10, 2005
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News that U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, Jr. offered behind-the-scenes help to the first big gay-rights victory in the Court in 1996, sent both the left and right to spinning that it really didn't matter very much. The story first appeared in The Los Angeles Times Aug. 3.

The case was Romer v. Evans, the infamous Colorado Amendment 2 pushed by social conservatives that would have made it substantially more difficult for gays and lesbians to advance their rights through the political process.

Lambda Legal handled the appeal to the Court with pro bono assistance from the law firm of Hogan & Hartson. As a senior member of the firm at the time, Roberts offered suggestions on how to shape the appeal, and during preparations for oral arguments, he took on the role of Justice Scalia in questioning Jean Dubofsky who would be arguing the case.

'John Roberts … was just terrifically helpful in meeting with me and spending some time on the issue,' Dubofsky told the Times. 'He seemed to be very fair-minded and very astute.'

When the decision came down, the Court had voted 6-3 that Amendment 2 unfairly discriminated against gays—they declared it unconstitutional.

Lambda Legal's executive director Kevin Cathcart tried to downplay the significance of Roberts' contribution. 'Lawyers in firms are often called on to play roles to support their firm's work; the work is routine and as here, often goes without notice.'

He preferred to focus on Robert's 'much more extensive advocacy positions that we oppose.' For Cathcart that was the fear that the nominee might oppose abortion rights and the underpinning of privacy. He added, 'This is one more piece that will be added to the puzzle in the vetting of John Roberts' nomination.'

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese raised similar concerns. 'Judge Roberts' involvement in the case is noteworthy, but his participation adds little to our understanding of how he would vote on the Court. The stakes are too high for guessing games over Judge Roberts' stance.'

Far right social conservatives were vexed that Roberts just might not be a raging homophobe. 'It is clearly concerning because, according to the story, Judge Roberts did not hesitate to get involved to work on this case pro bono,' Mat Staver told Baptist Press News. He is president of the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel.

'This is certainly not welcome news to those of us who advocate for traditional values,' said Tony Perkins in a statement released by the Family Research Council. Later he tried to dismiss Roberts' role as 'what lawyers do—represent their firm's clients, whether they agree with what those clients stand for or not.'

Talking points put out by the Committee for Justice, a group formed earlier to support Bush's judicial nominations, said the information on Roberts' involvement with the Romer case was 'a red herring meant to divide the right.' Soon conservative talk radio hosts were repeating the spin, and their reservations.

Norman J. Ornstein, a more traditional conservative at the American Enterprise Institute, said it reinforces the view that Roberts is not an ideology trying to impose his world view but rather a judge who would be guided by the law.


This article shared 2059 times since Wed Aug 10, 2005
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