Meets with Gay Rights Supporters
Oregonian, April 26, 2003
1320 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201
By Mark Larabee
Oregon’s U.S. attorney, Michael Mosman, the leading
candidate for an open federal judgeship in Portland, met Friday with
representatives of two gay rights groups that are seeking clarification on his
written opinions about privacy for homosexuals.
The meeting was the result of a continuing controversy in
which Mosman’s views, expressed in 1986 while clerking for Supreme Court
Justice Lewis Powell, have gay rights advocates wondering whether he will be
able to make unbiased rulings regarding liberties for sexual minorities if
appointed to the federal bench.
Neither side would talk about what was said during the
Mosman’s memos to Powell advocated upholding
Georgia’s antisodomy law on grounds that its demise would open to door to
legalizing other sex crimes, such as prostitution. He said the right to
privacy should not be a shield to homosexuals charged with breaking antisodomy
laws. Powell cast the deciding vote to uphold the Georgia law.
The Supreme Court is now deliberating whether it should
overturn a Texas antisodomy law and, in essence, reverse the court’s 1986
stance in Bowers v. Hardwick, the case Mosman wrote about as Lewis’ law
Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s most influential gay
rights lobby, and the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group in
the country, expressed concerns last month that Mosman might still subscribe
to those 17-year-old standards regardless of the country’s growing
acceptance of homosexual relationships.
Focus on the issue sharpened dramatically this week when
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., told The Associated Press that throwing out
antisodomy laws on the basis of privacy rights could threaten regulation of
sexual behavior that is “antithetical to strong healthy families.”
“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to
consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have
the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to
adultery,” Santorum said.
The similarities between Mosman’s written views as a
young lawyer and Santorum’s comments have put Oregon’s two U.S. senators
in a tough spot politically.
Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Gordon Smith agree that
Mosman is their top choice to fill the Portland vacancy on the federal bench.
Yet both have denounced Santorum’s statements, Wyden more forcefully than
Smith, and now they must reconcile Mosman’s early writings with their own
support of gay rights and a desire to see Bowers v. Hardwick overturned.
Mosman met for more than an hour Friday morning at
Wyden’s Portland office with Roey Thorpe of Basic Rights Oregon, Terry Bean
from the Human Rights Campaign and senior Smith and Wyden staffers.
Afterward, Mosman called the meeting productive and said
he was happy to answer questions posed by the advocates.
Bean said it was a good discussion, but that he wanted
time to think about what was said before making any comment.
“The 1986 law, Bowers versus Hardwick, was very, very
hurtful to a whole nation of gays and lesbians,” he said. “We’re trying
to determine if (Mosman) is a different person than he was in 1986.”
Thorpe also reserved her impressions of Mosman, saying
she needed to deliberate with colleagues about what was said.
“I understand that the stakes are very high here,”
she said. “A dialogue occurred here and that is progress. We want to make
sure we’ve considered it thoroughly.”
Josh Kardon, Wyden’s chief of staff, said afterward
that he thinks Mosman believes in equal rights for all Americans, regardless
of sexual orientation.
“Senator Wyden couldn’t disagree more strongly with
the beliefs of Senator Santorum,” Kardon said. “We would like to think
that there’s a difference between what Senator Santorum said as an elected
official and what Mr. Mosman wrote as a law clerk in 1986.”
He said Mosman and Wyden will meet to discuss the issue
next week and noted that in a Senate so evenly divided between Democrats and
Republicans, virtually anyone could make an issue out of anything to block a
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