|by Bill Sievert|
|Supreme Court Buzz Fuels the Old Rumor Mill
The buzz started very quickly. Not more than two hours after President Bush nominated Harriet Miers for a Supreme Court seat, a friend called to tell me that rumors already were polluting the radio airwaves. My friend had stopped for a hair cut at a walk-in salon, which for some inexplicable reason was subjecting its customers to Rush Limbaugh's program, and the topic generating breathless discussion was Miers' marital status.
The nominee, according to the gist of the give-and-take, would make a poor justice because she was husbandless and, even more suspicious, childlessa circumstance out of sync with the core "family values" of conservatives.
"Excuse me." I said, "Since when have conservatives espoused single women rearing children? Dan Quayle must be rolling over in his pota-toes."
"Ha, ha," said my friend, who is a single mother, a single grandmother, and a singular lesbian. "I got so mad that I told the girl at the front counter that I'd rather listen to Pat Boone sing 'Feelings' than be subjected to that sort of crap. The girl looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about, so I walked out."
"Right on, sister. I recently walked out of a restaurant because the TV over the bar had on Fox News."
"I figured that you'd understand. For crying out loud, aren't we ever going to get to the point in this society where we judge people by their deeds, instead of labeling and lumping them, and making irrelevant innuendos?"
"Well, consider the source. We're never going to rid the world entirely of stupid people unless someone develops the ultimate smart pill."
"They ought to give one to Limbaugh."
"I'm sure he'd be happy to take almost any kind of pill. So, did anyone on the show out-and-out call Miers a lesbian?"
"Well, someone said she'd probably advance the gay agenda, and Rush kept whining that there's so-o-o much we don't know about her."
While few of us know much about Miers' views, I must admit that I'm tickled triangularly pink to hear the reactionaries fuss and moan about their President's pick for the top court, even if for specious reasons. As liberals initially took a "wait-and-see" and "let's-do-some-research" stance about the nomination, conservatives jumped to a conclusion (one to which I only wish the rest of us could crawl) that Miers will be no robot of the right. Conservative columnist George Will went so far as to write that Bush "has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution."
As with the record of now-Chief Justice John Roberts, Miers' paper-trail (what little there is of it) indicates a less-than-consistent record on issues of particular concern to gay people. She did go on record to the Lesbian/Gay Coalition of Dallas as favoring equal civil rights for homosexuals when she ran for that city's city council in 1989. But she was vague on specifics. And she specifically said she opposed repeal of the Texas sodomy statute that the Supreme Court struck down by a 6-3 vote in 2003; the justice she would replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, voted with the majority on the issue.
O'Connor, who in recent years often provided a voice of reason in a seriously divided court, will certainly be missed. It is unlikely that either Miers or Roberts will be as independent as
O'Connor has been of late. And there is reason to be concerned from Miers' past participation in a pro-life group and participation in an evangelical church that she may no friend of a woman's right to choose. However, truth is, we often cannot use previous performance to predict how appointees to the Supreme Court will rule. The current President's father appointed Justice David Souter, thinking he could be counted on as a strict conservative. Like O'Connor, Souter has turned out to be much more progressive in his interpretation of law than almost anyone initially expected.
So, we can hope that both Roberts and Miers (despite her close ties to the man who appointed her) will rise to the challenge of safeguarding civil and privacy rights for all Americans,
approaching their deliberations with open minds rather than pre-packed political baggage. And at least we can breathe a sigh of relief that the current President Bush didn't name Karl Rove or Mel Martinez or Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson to the court.
Speaking of Robertson, as I mentioned earlier in this column, we're never going to rid ourselves entirely of stupid people. Now, following Robertson's lead, several other "ministers of the Lord" have been making the radio talk-show circuit, claiming that the reason Hurricane Katrina targeted New Orleans was because God was venting wrath at the flamboyant homosexuals who live and play there.
Though all of us (I hope) know how patently ludicrous that notion is, most of the reaction I heard from radio callers simply criticized the preachers for being judgmental, citing the Biblical verse, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I forced myself to listen through nearly an hour of one such program, waiting for someoneanyoneto say the obvious: If God truly sent New Orleans that terrible hurricane as a punishment, then how come the French Quarter, where most of the gay clubs and party scene are centered, made it through the storm relatively unscathed? By the logic of Robertson and company, since Katrina inflicted the most severe damage and the worst human suffering on parts of the city (not to mention coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi) with majority populations of black and lower-income white families, then it is obvious: God likes homos just fine, but he really has it in for black folks and poor white heterosexuals.
Attempting to make sense of the workings of Pat Robertson's mind is almost as great a challenge as trying to forecast how the newest appointees to the Supreme Court are likely to rule on the critical social issues they will face. As for the direction our country will take as a result of their presence, God only knows.
Bill Sievert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 14 October 14, 2005