Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to sit on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Srinivasan, who was first nominated ten months ago yet is just now receiving a hearing, is the latest Obama judicial nominee caught in the web of Senate obstruction. Last month, Republicans blocked the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to a seat on the same court, despite her impeccable qualifications and strong bipartisan backing. Some important facts to keep in mind during and after today’s hearing:
Our federal courts are suffering because of entrenched Republican obstruction. Because of both public and silent Republican filibusters, President Obama’s appeals court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 153 days between Judiciary Committee approval and a yes-or-no vote from the Senate. At this point in Bush’s presidency, the average wait for confirmed appeals court nominees was just 37 days. The foot-dragging is unrelated to who the nominee is – even consensus nominees with the strong support of their Republican home-state senators have been forced to wait for months through active or silent filibusters before the Senate is finally allowed to hold a confirmation vote. This pointless obstruction, which is echoed at the district court level, has led to persistently high vacancy rates and longer waits for Americans seeking their day in court.
WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz of New Jersey to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a 64 to 34 vote today, over one year after her nomination was sent to the Senate floor for a vote. Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:
“The absurd delay of Patty Shwartz’s confirmation is emblematic of a Republican Party determined to obstruct the American people’s business at all costs. Judge Shwartz is indisputably qualified and supported by New Jersey’s legal leaders and elected officials from both parties, including Gov. Christie and both of the state’s U.S. senators. The only thing stopping the Senate from voting on her nomination was a 13-month Republican silent filibuster supported by flimsy excuses.
“The delay in confirming Judge Shwartz is sadly not unusual. President Obama’s confirmed circuit court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 153 days from Judiciary Committee approval to floor vote. By contrast, George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees at this point in his presidency waited an average of just 37 days. This deliberate slow-walking of nominees is obstructing Senate business, exacerbating a vacancy crisis in our federal courts, and deterring highly qualified individuals from putting themselves forward to serve on the federal bench.
“This summer, two more Third Circuit judgeships will become vacant. We hope that Senate Republicans will allow these vacancies to be filled in a timely manner.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, who was investigated for misconduct by a judicial committee, will retire May 3rd. This represents a sudden, unexpected, and publicly unexplained change from his decision to continue hearing cases as a senior judge, which went into effect just two weeks ago. In response, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“After many months of investigation, Judge Cebull’s actions seem to have finally caught up with him. Cebull apparently hoped to avoid sanction by taking senior status before the misconduct investigation concluded. Fortunately, his gambit to avoid accountability was ultimately unsuccessful.
“Retirement was the only appropriate action for Cebull to take. He used his official email account to send an incredibly disgusting and racist email. When asked why, he said he sent it because he opposes the president.
“Americans expect the courts to be fair, impartial, and open to all. Cebull clearly demonstrated that he does not have the temperament to serve as a federal judge. His retirement, and the thorough investigation by the Ninth Circuit that precipitated it, are encouraging signs of a commitment to fairness and impartiality in the federal judiciary.”
WorldNetDaily must be pleased with this “scoop”: former GOP congressman and third party presidential candidate Virgil Goode has joined Alabama Republican activist Hugh McInnish in filing a lawsuit arguing that President Obama is not eligible to be president.
But the story gets better: the attorney representing them is Larry Klayman.
And the story gets even better: the judge hearing the case is none other than Roy Moore.
Moore, who was recently returned to office as chief justice of Alabama’s state Supreme Court after he was removed from the post in 2003 for refusing to obey a court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument, is no fan of Obama.
WND also notes that Moore has defended birther hero Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who said he won’t follow deployment orders because he deemed any order from Obama to be illegitimate, and the increasingly unstable Klayman has praised Moore’s “integrity and legal acumen.”
Now, 2012 Constitution Party presidential nominee Virgil Goode and Alabama Republican Party leader Hugh McInnish are asking the state’s highest court to force Secretary of State Beth Chapman to verify that all candidates on the state’s 2012 ballot were eligible to serve.
Attorney Larry Klayman, founder of the Washington, D.C.-watch dog Judicial Watch and now head of Freedom Watch, filed the appeal Tuesday with the Alabama Supreme Court, asking for oral arguments.
“We are hopeful that Chief Justice Moore and the rest of the jurists on the Alabama Supreme Court will follow the law,” Klayman told WND.
Klayman says he and his team “have great respect for Chief Justice Moore and his integrity and legal acumen.”
“He is one courageous and brave man. There are few in this country.”
The case is an appeal of a dismissal by the Montgomery Circuit Court.
In his brief, Klayman says “credible evidence and information from an official source” was presented to Chapman before the election indicating Obama might not have been qualified for Oval Office.
The complaint argues Chapman failed her constitutional duty as secretary of state to verify the eligibility of candidates.
Moore is on the record questioning Obama’s eligibility.
In an interview with WND in 2010, he defended Lt. Col Terrence Lakin’s demand that President Obama prove his eligibility as commander in chief as a condition of obeying deployment orders.
Moore said he had seen no convincing evidence that Obama is a natural-born citizen and much evidence that suggests he is not.
Moore said Lakin “not only has a right to follow his personal convictions under the Constitution, he has a duty.”
“And if the authority running the efforts of the war is not a citizen in violation of the Constitution, the order is unlawful,” he said.
Klayman asserts the secretary of state “has an affirmative duty that stems from her oath of office under both the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions, to protect the citizens from fraud and other misconduct by candidates.”
As a result of her refusal to investigate the qualifications of candidates for president, Klayman says, “a person believed to be unqualified for that office has been elected.”
The remedy, he said, “is to require each candidate to do what every teenager is required to do to get a learner’s permit.”
“It is to produce a bona fide birth certificate … and the Secretary of State is the official to cause that to happen.”
McInnish is a member of the Madison County Republican Executive Committee and also sits on the state Republican Executive Committee.
Citing the investigation of Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse, Klayman says Chapman “gained knowledge from an official source that there was probable cause to believe the Barack Obama had not met a certifying qualification.”
The appeal brief notes McInnish visited the secretary of state’s office Feb. 2, 2012, and spoke with the deputy secretary of state, Emily Thompson, in Chapman’s absence.
Moore told WND in an interview after his election last November that the country must return to a standard in which the rule of law prevails over politics.
He said Obama violated the Constitution when he bombed Libya, because the Constitution stipulates only Congress shall declare war.
“No president has the power to violate constitutional restraints of power,” Moore said.
“The Constitution is the rule of law, and [my job is] to uphold the rule of law.” Government’s job, Moore said, is to secure and protect those rights.
“There is little regard for the Constitution in the courts today, even the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Craig Parshall of National Religious Broadcasters added to the torrent of right-wing doomsday prophesies about marriage equality yesterday, claiming that a Supreme Court victory for gay rights would ultimately lead to hate speech laws wielded against Christians. In an interview with his wife Janet Parshall, a talk show host with Moody Radio, he warned that “the next victim will be not just the traditional view of marriage and the health of society, but it’s going to be the free speech rights of Christians as well.”
We have a hate crimes law on the federal level now that we didn’t used to have. It’s only been in play for a few years, but I’m already seeing indications that it could migrate toward the suppression of speech. So there’s no question in my mind that if either or both of these decisions go the wrong way, the next victim will be not just the traditional view of marriage and the health of society, but it’s going to be the free speech rights of Christians as well.
He was also upset that Justice Kennedy, during the arguments on Proposition 8, had brought up the well-being of California children being raised by same-sex couples. “There are some 40,000 children in California…that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?,” Kennedy asked.
Parshall, who has previously called the children of gay and lesbian parents “victims of gay mentality,” said that in this case the views of children shouldn’t be considered. “We don’t leave it up to children to make those decisions,” he said. “Either the parents make it, or a high-level court, or society through Proposition 8 voting, has to decide those moral, societal value questions.”
(Of course, in this case, the parents are not able to make the decision to get married because they are legally barred from doing so).
The issue was, I thought, brought to a head in a very interesting, but I think wrong-headed, question by Justice Kennedy, the swing vote again, who said, ‘Well, but what about those 37,000,’ and actually, excuse me, he said, ‘the 40,000 children living in same-sex relationships in California?’ Actually, the number’s 37,000, I think he rounded it up, that’s fine. The 37,000 children. ‘What about them? They want their putative father and other significant other to be called a married couple.’ Well, number one, do they? I don’t think a survey has been made of those 37,000 children. But, number two, we don’t leave it up to children to make those decisions. Either the parents make it, or a high-level court, or society through Proposition 8 voting, has to decide those moral, societal value questions. The child doesn’t make the decision about whether marriage should be instituted for the purpose of gay parents.
People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch has been closely following the Right Wing’s reaction to this week’s marriage equality arguments at the Supreme Court – which ranges from awkward homophobic discussions to outright threats of revolution.
Last night, our director of communications, Drew Courtney, went on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton to discuss the Right’s reaction to the marriage cases. Watch it here:
In an interview with Janet Mefferd yesterday, pastor Jim Garlow elaborated on his theory that gay people don’t actually want to get married. In fact, Garlow told Mefferd, gay people want to “destroy marriage” and “force us to affirm an immoral behavior.”
Garlow further warned that if the Supreme Court affirms marriage equality, Christians will be “forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them.”
Garlow: I think it’s important for people to realize what’s really at stake here. And I know this sounds sound strange, most of us assume naively that what homosexuals are actually for is marriage. And that is not true, at least not universally true. What they want is to destroy marriage.
I think Masha Gessen out of Australia was the most open one I’ve seen on it. She’s a homosexual activist and she just said bluntly, ‘Let’s face it, we don’t want marriage, we want the end of marriage.’ And that’s exactly what happened, of course, in European countries, where they changed the laws regarding what the definition of marriage is and people just stopped getting marriage. And you’d think marriage rates would go up. Instead, they dropped because nobody respects the institution anymore.
And that’s what the heart of this is, not only to end marriage, they’re not demanding marriage for themselves, they want us, to force us to affirm an immoral behavior.
Mefferd: That’s it. And the religious liberty issue, and I know you’ve been really big on this as well, I think more Christians need to understand the connection between advancing LGBT rights and retreating Christian rights.
Garlow: If same-sex so-called marriage is established as the law of the land, many of the people who are listening to my voice right now, not maybe immediately but at some point in the future, if they are followers of Christ, will be forced underground. Their buildings will be taken away from them, many of their rights will be taken away from them.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way, delivered the following remarks to those supporting marriage equality in front of the Supreme Court today.
I greet you as one who is humbled to stand before you on this day that will be like none other and say celebrate, be glad in it, and keep standing for and with Hope!
Why Hope? As the Director of African American Religious Affairs of People For the American Way, Hope tells us DOMA will not stand but like Goliath, will fall.
Hope says same gender couples, in committed relationships will be recognized and receive those 1100 plus benefits now denied by the federal government. Hope defends what is right, Hope unites people and families, Hope stands with us and for us, and Hope is the American Way!
Why Hope? As an organizer and ally since 1996, Hope kept us waiting for this historic day. Hope gave us a process and a lesson to never take lightly judicial nominations, to make sure voter registration and mobilization is a core value, to rejoice in victories in 2012 from the proclamation from the highest officer holder in this country – President Obama - to 4 states making it 9 states total passing pro-Marriage Equality laws, and that our work in the states is not done. Hope hasn’t just strengthened those who have always believed in marriage equality. It’s brought others to reconsider their opposition and join us on the side of justice for all. Hope is why we have so many other new and welcomed allies for equality.
Why Hope? As a Christian, during this Holy Week, from our sacred text “hope that is seen is not hope”, so you have had and must hold on with unwavering confidence that help has arrived, is sitting in between the walls of the highest court of this nation, and speaking into existence freedom that will no longer be denied.
And finally, why Hope? As an African American woman, on behalf of the Equal Justice Task Force of African American Ministers In Action, Hope says the enemy is a liar when they say African Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are two separate - even hostile – communities, for “no weapon shall be forged against us” and no wedge can be driven between those who know oppression, discrimination, denial of basic civil and human rights. Hope connects the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement, the yesterday to today, the hopeful to the hopeless.
So Beloved, stay in Hope! Stay in Hope I say for if the Justices are about the business of justice, then they will speak against hate, division, intolerance, and barriers to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Stay in Hope for my sacred text tells us what “man meant for harm, God intends for good”.
In this pivotal moment in our country's history, we must stand on the side of compassion and equality rather than on the side of oppression and discrimination. And that’s why we’re all out here on the steps of the Supreme Court today.
I leave you with these words, stay in Hope because it was the late Senator Ted Kennedy who said, and prayerfully he won’t mind me playing with it a little bit, “ For all those whose dreams have been our concern (to defeat all forms of discrimination), the work goes on (we are not going to stop trying until gay and lesbian Americans across the country have full legal equality), the cause endures (freedom to be, freedom to love, just freedom), the hope still lives ( I say again hope still lives), and the dream (for all persons to marry the person they love) shall never die.”
Be encouraged! Have faith. Expand love. Know peace. And may Hope, which is never silent, always be with you!
For weeks, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown has been touting the “historic” March for Marriage, telling supporters “this is our time” to "change history." A month ago he wrote excitedly about a “game-changer,” a $500,000 matching gift from one of the major donors that keep NOM afloat. Brown had been inspired by a massive turnout for an anti-marriage-equality protest in France, and hoped for something similar in Washington. But even with big donors and heavy-weight Religious Right co-sponsors, Brown and his allies couldn’t pull it off. Not even close.
In reality, NOM’s rally had a few, perhaps several, thousand attendees. (NOM’s Thomas Peters claims 15,000, which seems, um, generous.) And every time one of the speakers tried to make the crowd feel like part of a larger movement by talking about the 200,000 people they said marched recently for one-man/one-woman marriage in Puerto Rico, or the hundreds of thousands or millions in France and Spain, or even the 585,000 who have signed the Manhattan Declaration or the half million who marched against legal abortion, it only served to highlight how few bothered to show up in Washington. According to various speakers, the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia sent five busloads; anti-gay state senator Ruben Diaz claimed 32 buses from New York. Brian Brown gave a shout out to some Chinese Christians from Chicago.
The ethnically diverse speakers’ list was a mix of old and new, including some familiar faces on the anti-gay circuit, such as Harry Jackson, Gary Bauer, and Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats. Harry Jackson led the crowd in a chant that he said was a prayer for the Supreme Court: “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered.” Bauer delivered a blustery message to the Republican Party that if they “bail” on marriage, he’ll lead as many people as he can out of the GOP (which may not be that much of a threat). Vander Plaats urged Supreme Court justices to look to the Founding Fathers, Billy Graham, and Pope Francis. Also speaking were Doug Mainwaring, now making the circuit as the anti-equality gay man the Religious Right loves to love; Frank Schubert, the mastermind of the dishonest Prop 8 campaign and every anti-equality campaign since then; and Jim Garlow, who made a name for himself among the Religious Right with his pro-Prop 8 organizing. Garlow insisted you cannot call yourself a Christian and support the Court’s “obliterating” what he called a “core aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Garlow should have seen the packed crowd at the morning’s pro-equality interfaith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.) Garlow warned Supreme Court justices that they will one day stand before “the Chief Justice of the Universe” and will be held accountable if they defy His ways.
A couple of groups sent under-30 speakers to say how wrong the media is to suggest that Millennials are a lost cause on this issue. But facts are facts, and polls show that support for marriage equality is overwhelming among under-30 Americans: 72 percent of Millennials believe same-sex couples should be able to get legally married, including 58 percent of under-30 Republicans.
Many of the speakers were on-message to the point of being boringly redundant, repeating the message on marchers’ pre-printed signs: “Kids do best with a mom and a dad” and “Every child deserves a mom and a dad.” Sometimes this came with a strong shot of gender stereotypes: mothers provide tenderness and fathers provide protection. Brian Brown even showed a video of the Religious Right’s newest heroine, the 11-year old who testified against marriage equality in Minnesota and asked which of her parents she did not need, her mother or father. Perhaps someone could explain that no same-sex couples seeking to get married have any desire to force her to get rid of either parent.
NOM’s backers for the marriage march included the far-far-right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family & Property, with its scarlet banners, capes, and marching band (see Adele Stan’s reminder who TFP is), Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, a couple of Catholic dioceses, the Knights of Columbus and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Brown gave special thanks to the Mormon-run GFC Foundation for providing grants for buses.
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes joined Sandy Rios on American Family Radio yesterday to discuss the marriage equality cases being argued at the Supreme Court this week. The two took a grim view of the proceedings: Starnes lamented that opponents of gay rights have become “second-class” citizens and Rios warned that a Supreme Court marriage equality victory would lead to “tremendous punishment” for anti-gay activists.
“We are in for persecution like we have never seen,” she said, to which Starnes replied, “Well, it’s already started.”
Starnes: People are, people are very concerned about, about culture and about values and where things are going in this country. What concerns me, though, Sandy, is the vitriol coming from those who support gay marriage. You know, I’m the kind of person that is more than happy to sit down and talk and debate and listen to what people have to say. I may not agree with it, but at least, you know, it’s their right to have their opinion under our Constitution.
And yet, there seems to be this opinion on the other side that says, you know what, you and I don’t deserve the same rights. You know, it’s as if we’re second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage, or perhaps we are pro-life, and that means we’re somehow second-class citizens who don’t deserve to be in the public marketplace of ideas.
Rios: Absolutely. In fact, it’ll be worse than that. You know there’s going to be punishment. There will be tremendous punishment. If gay marriage is embraced by the country, if the Supreme Court goes south this week in its hearings, we are in for – of course, we’re not going to hear about it until June – but we are in for persecution like we have never seen it.
Starnes: Well, it’s already started.
In response to the reported withdrawal of DC Circuit Court of Appeals Nominee Caitlin Halligan, People For the American Way issued the following statement.
“Caitlin Halligan’s decision to withdraw her nomination is an indictment of the continued intransigence of Senate Republicans,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “There’s no question that Halligan was totally qualified for the position. Anyone who wants to understand how Washington is broken can look at the filibuster led by Senators Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell. Not a single Senator raised concerns about Halligan’s qualifications or her character, yet Republicans wouldn’t even allow her an up-or-down vote. This is partisanship run amok.”
Halligan, who was first nominated to the DC Circuit in May of 2010, was repeatedly blocked by Republicans—including Senators Collins, McCain and Graham, members of the so-called Gang of 14 who previously spoke out against filibustering in anything but “extraordinary circumstances.”
“There’s an obvious reason why Republicans have been so committed to blocking President Obama’s nominees to this court,” said Baker. “Republican Presidents have been hugely successful in packing the DC Circuit with extraordinarily conservative judges, and they don’t want any more jurists on the bench to dilute that ideological power. The DC Circuit has dealt significant blows to working people, environmentalists, public health activists and ordinary investors. Republicans pushing a reactionary ideology are working overtime to protect the power of the DC circuit to advance their political agenda. Senators should put the best interests of the country above partisanship and bring this obstruction to a halt.”
People For the American Way recently released a report, America’s Progress At Risk: Restoring the Balance to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, laying out the impact of the right-wing majority on the nation’s second highest court.
WASHINGTON – Four years into President Obama’s presidency, he has yet to have a single judge confirmed to the hugely influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This lapse, caused initially by a slow start from the administration but perpetuated by a blockade of obstruction in the Senate, threatens to hinder progressive advances for years to come, argues a new report from People For the American Way.
The report, AMERICA’S PROGRESS AT RISK: RESTORING BALANCE TO THE DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, can be found here: http://www.pfaw.org/media-center/publications/america-s-progress-risk-restoring-balance-dc-circuit-court-appeals
“The D.C. Circuit is the most important court most Americans have never heard of,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “The D.C. Circuit’s judges have the final word on scores of federal laws each year, from air pollution controls to financial regulations to workers’ rights. Republicans have long understood this, and have packed the court with far-right ideologues who threaten to hold back American progress for decades to come. And they have so far blocked confirmation of judges who would bring any balance to this court."
President Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to fail to have a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit during his first full term in office, despite the fact that four of the eleven seats on the court are now vacant. His first nominee to the court, the indisputably qualified Caitlin Halligan, was twice blocked by Senate Republicans for reasons widely recognized as spurious.
As a result, the D.C. Circuit continues to be dominated by judges pushing a right-wing ideology long rejected by the American people. The right-wing majority of the D.C. Circuit has continuously sought to dismantle progressive efforts to defend consumers, protect public health, and ensure the rights of workers. Recent D.C. Circuit decisions highlighted in the report include:
“President Obama has a chance in his second term to restore ideological balance to the D.C. Circuit,” added Marge Baker. “It is critically important that he do so. Otherwise, D.C. Circuit will continue to stand in the way of progressive reforms -- reforms chosen by American voters -- and threaten to roll back decades of hard-won protections for working people and consumers."