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    November 26, 2006

    Hard-hearted Brownback

    Posted by: Chris

    Americans got a glimpse of the hard-hearted face of right-wing conservatism this morning when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who's prepping for an '08 presidential run, was pressed about blocking one of President Bush's judicial nominees for the sin of attending the lesbian commitment ceremony of her next-door neighbor.


    This is the true face of right-wing conservatism, treating gay couples much as their forbears in the '50s and '60s treated interracial couples. It may play to the evangelical Christians within the GOP, but it turns off most Americans, including most Republicans.

    Most Americans aren't ready for gay marriage, but they don't want to exclude gays, including gay couples, from their lives. Conservatives are overplaying their hand on the issue, as Brownback shows here when he tries to convert Neff's attendance at a private religious ceremony as some sort of tacit approval of civil legal status for gay couples.


    Some background from an AP report:

    Neff’s status has been in limbo since [September], when Brownback placed his procedural hold — using a technique that allows a lone senator to stall a nomination. Brownback wanted to know whether there was anything illegal or improper about the 2002 ceremony in Massachusetts and how Neff’s actions might shape her judicial philosophy.

    In an Oct. 12 letter to Brownback that was released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Neff said a minister presided over the ceremony and she insisted her attendance would not affect her ability to act fairly as a federal judge.

    “The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect,” Neff wrote.

    She said her family had lived next door to one of the women, Mary Curtin, for more than two decades and considers Curtin part of the extended family.

    “When Mary and her partner, Karen Adelman, asked me to participate in their commitment ceremony by delivering a homily, it was not different from being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives,” Neff wrote.

    Neff declined to answer Brownback’s questions on whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage or civil unions, saying it would be improper to address questions that might come before her as a federal judge.

    Brownback no doubt wasn't expecting his private play to social conservatives, which has gotten almost no media coverage, even in the gay press, to get the kind of national exposure it got this morning, and you can sense his unease at having to defend himself in a forum that includes a broader cross-section of Americans.

    Gay groups and Democrats should seize on the Neff nomination in a public way to put social conservatives like Brownback on the defensive on the issue.



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    1. Don on Nov 26, 2006 7:24:51 PM:

      I saw this news show too and was happy that Stephanopoulos pressed Brownback after his initial sidestepping the question.

      However, I wish George had gone one step further and hypothesized a judicial nominee attending a heterosexual religious ceremony that Brownback may not subscribe to (say something Muslim). Would Brownback put a hold on that nominee? Would he worry that the prospective jurist might be biased toward Muslims (because s/he supported a friend by attending a Muslim service) in the upcoming federal cases involving rendition, torture or habeas corpus?

      I think the point no one has clearly stated is that this is America and we have freedom of religion. We should be allowed to attend whatever religious services we choose and not be discriminated against because of it, whether the discriminator is an employer or a US Senator. Granted, the discrimination laws do not apply to US Senators, but when framed this way, Brownback is painted for what he is….. a bigot. Stephanopoulos should have asked Brownback if he truly believes in freedom of religion in this country.

    1. Alan on Nov 27, 2006 1:11:56 PM:

      Ah...judicial guilt by association. Isn't America great. Sen. Brownback should change his name to Sen. Brownshirt.

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