Last edited: February 20, 2005

Bush Renominates Homophobic Judge, February 15, 2005

By Paul Johnson, Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON—A year after naming former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to a temporary seat on a federal appeals court, President Bush has launched a fresh attempt to put the controversial attorney there for life.

In the 2003-2004 session of Congress, Pryor’s nomination was blocked by Senate Democrats, who charged that he was too extreme to make impartial judgments. Last February, the president instead placed him on the 11th Circuit in a temporary assignment set to expire late this year.

Late Monday and without comment, Bush resubmitted Pryor’s name to the Senate, which must again decide whether to confirm him for the lifetime appointment to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

While in his temporary position on the court Pryor cast the deciding vote to uphold Florida’s outright ban on gay adoption. Florida is the only state in the country that explicitly bans children from being adopted by gays and lesbians.

As Attorney General of Alabama, he was the only attorney general outside of Texas to author an amicus brief in the Supreme Court defending Texas’s anti-gay sodomy statute. Pryor argued that states have an interest in singling out same-sex relations for punishment, even though his own state’s statute made no distinction between same-and opposite-sex relations. His brief also compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia.

While he served at A.G. of Alabama Pryor had links placed on the state website to anti-gay organizations and other conservative groups but not to groups with a neutral or differing views.

“William Pryor’s record is so clearly a threat to individual rights and protections, that all Americans should be concerned” said Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Policy David Smith.

“He has made it clear throughout his career that he has a strong bias against GLBT Americans. This country needs judges who make fair and balanced decisions free from any slanted ideology.”

Smith urged the Senate to reject Pryor’s nomination. That opinion was shared by the National Stonewall Democrats.

“It is dangerously unethical for President Bush to promote the quick confirmation of judicial activists whose rulings he himself has not examined,” said Dave Noble, NSD Executive Director.

“President Bush recently admitted that he did not know that the state of Florida prohibits gay residents from adopting children. Yet, it was his recess appointment—William Pryor—who cast the deciding vote days earlier to uphold this ban. If President Bush refuses to review the records of his own nominees for lifetime appointments, then the Senate should.”

Senate Democrats are expected to renew their opposition to Pryor’s nomination. Republicans are pressing for acceptance.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) who has been Pryor’s leading backer on Capitol Hill, said he hoped lawmakers “will consider the great merits of his candidacy, including his record on the 11th Circuit.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., suggested that Pryor could get early consideration.

Another Bush nominee, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, also holds a radical record of anti-gay judicial activism.

In 2003, Brown was the only justice on the California Supreme Court to rule against recognizing the right of gay Californians to legally adopt their children. Brown argued that allowing a gay parent to legally adopt the biological child of their partner “trivializes family bonds.”

Meanwhile, evangelist Pat Robertson indicated Tuesday that if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expects backing of religious conservatives for a possible 2008 presidential bid, he had better get President Bush’s judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate, or at least voted on.

“It is the ultimate test,” Robertson said at the National Press Club. “He cannot be a leader and allow Democrats to do what they did in the last session.”

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