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August 7, 2005 - Roberts Did What?

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While blithely snapping aerial photographs over Los Angeles Harbor from a the front seat of the Goodyear blimp, "Spirit if America," much was happening in the other real world on Thursday, August 4.  Richard Serrano in the Los Angeles Times reported that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts was a key player in a 1996 pro bono case involving gay rights:


Gay rights activists at the time described the court's 6-3 ruling as the movement's most important legal victory. The dissenting justices were those to whom Roberts is frequently likened for their conservative ideology: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Roberts' work on behalf of gay rights activists, whose cause is anathema to many conservatives, appears to illustrate his allegiance to the credo of the legal profession: to zealously represent the interests of the client, whoever it might be.


Say what?

Kevin Drum here:


It's probably a sign of my slow deterioration into political senility that I'm less interested in the actual story here than I am in the meta-story. Why did Serrano write this piece? Who suggested it to him? And why did they suggest it?

Was it to make Roberts look less doctrinaire and therefore more palatable to liberals? Or was it designed to plant seeds of doubt about his doctrinal trustworthiness among conservatives? Or to insinuate that maybe Roberts is gay after all? Or what?

Deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole we go…


And the New York Times picks up the story the next day with additional detail:


Judge John G. Roberts Jr., the Supreme Court nominee, gave advice to advocates for gay rights a decade ago, helping them win a landmark 1996 ruling protecting gay men and lesbians from state-sanctioned discrimination.

Judge Roberts, at the time an appellate lawyer for the Washington firm of Hogan & Hartson, did not write legal briefs or argue the case, lawyers involved said. But they said he did provide invaluable strategic guidance working pro bono to formulate legal theories and coach them in moot court sessions.

Judge Roberts did not disclose his role in the case to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asked about pro bono work in a questionnaire. News of his participation was first reported Thursday in The Los Angeles Times, and it set off an immediate scramble on both the left and the right, upending perceptions of the nominee in both camps.


Yep, watch the White House scramble to his defense, and the religious right worry - is something going on here?



Over at Manhattan Offender you can find How gay is this guy? - there Roberts' background is reviewed and we get this: "My early years were very similar and, dude, I'm a total 'mo."

As Bill Montgomery over at Whiskey Bar says: "I knew the freaking pants were a give away!"  Yep, they were plaid.


This just shows how out of touch I am these days with the mainstream (or should I say the sewer main?) of American politics. I thought the big scandal was Roberts's failure to disclose his services to the all-powerful sunscreen lobby. But apparently being a corporate whore, and trying to hide it, can't hold a candle to the heinous sin of litigating on behalf of equal rights, and then trying to hide that.

I don't think this was just a youthful indiscretion, either.

What will be hilarious, of course, will be watching Right Blogostan try to figure out how to deal with this new development. The same people who were outraged - outraged! - by the stupid jokes about Roberts's teenage fashion sense, now will have to figure out what they think about him legally consorting with known gay rights activists.

Being gay can be overlooked or rationalized, a la Jeff Gannon. Discrimination, after all, is for the little people. But defending gays - fondling the equal protection clause, stroking the constitutional "penumbra," making mad, passionate love to the privacy doctrine - these are sins that simply cannot be forgiven, not if the phrase social conservative is to have any meaning that can't be found next to "hypocrite" in a thesaurus.

But what would that say about the man who nominated Roberts? When conservatives snickered about the "stealth candidate," and congratulated Bush for having so cleverly "threaded the needle," this isn't exactly what they meant. Has their unappreciated genius actually blundered? Or, God forbid, could he be…

No. It's unthinkable. Somehow, in some way, Roberts's dalliance with the forces of darkness must be the filthy liberals' fault.

… But Roberts's mid-life legal crisis poses a dilemma for us lefties, too. Should we snuggle up to the judge and encourage him to come out of the closet completely? Should we start dropping little hints about the Lambda fundraiser we saw him at, or the time we spotted him having a cozy candlelight supper with Ralph Neas? Or would that blow so many fuses at Focus on the Family that Bush would be forced to drop Roberts like, well, a Talon News reporter?

Do we still want to stop Roberts, considering who (or what) we might get in his place? Personally, I'm almost starting to feel sympathy for the guy - even if he is a greasy corporate whore smothered in coco butter. Better the butter than the whole nut, which is what we'd get if Justice Janice Brown ended up taking the oath.

I don't know. Maybe the best thing for progressives and liberals (and dino Dems, for that matter) to do at this point is just sit back and let the Republicans have at it. Between Frist's flipflop on stem cells, and Roberts' fling with gay liberation, the stage seems to be set for a nasty intra-party fight between the Enron wing and the Taliban wing of the GOP. And the last thing we want to do is get in the way of that.


Fasten your seatbelts.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.

And is Bush gay?  Betty Bowers thought so a year ago.

The world gets stranger and stranger by the day.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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