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|Obama's Supreme Court Nominee has gay rights record|
|by Lisa Keen|
|May 14, 2010 00:00|
Gay legal activists are applauding President Obama’s second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
Former Clinton White House aide Richard Socarides called Kagan a “brilliant, pragmatic progressive interested in listening to all sides and building coalitions.”
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Kevin Cathcart called Kagan “a strong position” in opposing the military’s ban on gays but noted that Obama administration has also “taken legal positions on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ with which we strongly disagree.”
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese applauded her selection as fulfilling Obama’s promise to promote “diversity” on the court.
If confirmed, Kagan would become only the fourth woman ever named to the court — out of 104 justices in the history of the court.
Kagan is of particular interest to the LGBT Americans. While serving as dean of Harvard Law School, she took sides with gays against military recruiters because the military would not abide by the school’s non-discrimination policy. That policy prohibited recruiters who discriminated based on sexual orientation.
Kagan clerked for one of the Supreme Court’s staunchest liberals, Thurgood Marshall, and was a research assistant for one of the greatest legal defenders of gay civil rights, Laurence Tribe.
Single and 50, she was also the subject of a CBS News website blog report last month which claimed that, if named to the court, Kagan would be the “first openly gay justice.” But Kagan has not publicly identified with any sexual orientation, and the White House moved quickly to say the report was “inaccurate.”
The president announced his selection at a press conference May 10. Kagan had been a rumored frontrunner since Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement in April.
In introducing Kagan to the press conference, Obama praised her for having sought conservative views to balance liberal views at Harvard. During her confirmation process for Solicitor General last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee received letters in support of Kagan from such well-known conservatives as former Solicitor Generals Charles Fried and Kenneth Starr, and such well-known liberals as Eleanor D. Acheson.
Her confirmation as Solicitor General was opposed, as expected, by some ultra-conservative groups, including Concerned Women for America and Focus on Family.
Kagan, an attorney, has never served as a judge. In response to questions from the Judiciary Committee last year, Kagan said she views as “unjust the exclusion of individuals from basic economic, civic, and political opportunities of our society on the basis of race, nationality, sex, religion, and sexual orientation.”
But she also said she was “fully convinced” she could defend U.S. laws even when they do not reflect her personal views.
The composition of the Supreme Court is increasing critical to the LGBT civil rights movement. Three important cases seeking equality in marriage rights are winding their ways to the high court and it seems nearly inevitable that the high court will choose to weigh in.
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