Gay activists are reacting favorably to
President Obama's pick of federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to
fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter.
Sotomayor's storied hard-working
background and legal credentials have definite bipartisan appeal –
she's been named to courts by Republican President George H. W. Bush
and Democratic President Bill Clinton – but her nomination is
certain to draw fire from conservatives who consider her too liberal.
If confirmed, she will become the first
Hispanic justice in the court's history and only the third female.
Gay activists had hoped to add one of
their own to the bench and lobbied Obama on behalf of two openly
lesbian Stanford Law professors: Pam Karlan and Kathleen
“From everything I know, Judge
Sotomayor is an outstanding choice – fair and aware, open and
judicious,” Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, told gay weekly
“I believe she has demonstrated commitment to principles of equal
protection and inclusion that defines a good nominee to the Supreme
Court. In choosing Judge Sotomayor, the first Latino candidate for
the Supreme Court, President Obama has made a strong and appealing
nomination that should and will receive the support of those
committed to equality for lesbians and gay men.”
In a statement issued by the National
LGBT Bar Association, the group said Sotomayor “not only meets, but
exceeds” the organization's criteria for a nominee.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have
already begun calling for her defeat.
Sotomayor's 1997 Clinton nomination to
the U.S. Court of Appeals was blocked for more than a year by
Republicans who called her too liberal and an “activist.”
“President Obama could have chosen a
consensus candidate,” a top Republican Senate leadership aide told
ABC News, “but he did not.”
Despite recent legal victories in state
courts and Legislatures, gay activists remain reticent to approach
the Supreme Court, which continues to lean right on social issues.
But a gay rights case likely to reach the Supreme Court is currently
making its way through the federal court system. The
lawsuit brought by gay and lesbian couples married in Massachusetts
seeks to strike down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA) that forbids federal agencies from recognizing legal
marriages. Lawyers working on the case have said they believe it
will reach the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor, 54, was raised in a South
Bronx housing project by parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico.
She worked against the odds to graduate summa cum laude from
Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979.