Last edited: February 13, 2005

Another Bush Judicial Nominee Under Fire

The Data Lounge, June 11, 2003

WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday opened hearings on the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, quite possibly President Bush’s most controversial federal judicial nominee to date.

The 41-year-old Pryor is an aggressive opponent of federal enforcement of environmental and civil rights laws, a fierce critic of Row v. Wade, a staunch defender of religious symbols and practices in public life, an avid supporter of laws criminalizing gay sexual conduct and an opponent of federal laws mandating access for the disabled.

Gay civil rights advocates have joined with national women’s rights groups, environmentalists, consumer protection organizations and advocates for the disabled in opposing Pryor’s nomination against the usual field of social and religious conservatives backing the nomination and fighting on President Bush’s behalf.

In an interesting and entirely unprecedented move, the normally docile Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization, announced Tuesday it would oppose the Pryor nomination—the first time the group has taken a stand in opposition to a Bush judicial nominee.

“We call on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, to address Mr. Pryor’s record on civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans,” said the LCR’s Patrick Guerriero.

Urging the president select “open-minded and fair jurists” to the federal bench, Guerriero said, “We believe that Mr. Pryor does not meet those criteria.” So far, Senate Democrats have successfully blocked two Bush appellate court nominees: Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen, a candidate for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, and Miguel Estrada, a nominee for the appeals court in Washington.

Pryor received a setback Tuesday when the American Bar Association declined to give him its highest rating for judicial nominees. A substantial majority on an ABA committee that investigated Pryor gave him a “qualified” rating. A minority of panel members found him “not qualified.”

Also Tuesday, a number of interest groups held an anti-Pryor news conference in Washington, among them were the Alliance for Justice, NAACP, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, The Human Rights Campaign, the Sierra Club and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

As Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor abused his position by utilizing state resources to directly and indirectly attack GLBT Americans in his state and across the country. He linked the state attorney general’s website to vehemently anti-GLBT groups, including the Family Research Council and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which regularly litigates cases against GLBT rights.

Pryor filed a friend of the court brief in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case challenging Texas’s sodomy law, in which he likened homosexuality to incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution and adultery. He argued that sodomy is a chosen behavior unworthy of constitutional protection.

“That kind of bias and blatant discrimination is not appropriate for someone assuming a lifetime appointment to a federal circuit court,” said the HRC’s Winnie Stachelberg. “It is appalling that Pryor would even be considered for this position. HRC is calling on the Senate to oppose this nomination, which is an affront to all fair-minded Americans.”

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