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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 16, 2005

LGBT groups, Black Caucus oppose Alito confirmation

Washington, D.C.--With less than a month before the beginning of confirmation hearings, LGBT leaders and congressional members concerned with civil rights are lobbying senators to oppose the nomination of Samuel A. Alito to the nation�s highest court.

Joint and separate statements in strong opposition to the Alito nomination were issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays December 12.

�A nominee to the court bears the burden of demonstrating that he or she is committed to rigorously enforcing the principles of equal protection and due process. Mere assurances before or during a hearing are not enough - the professional and judicial record of Judge Samuel Alito makes clear that he cannot meet that burden,� says the joint statement.

�It also makes clear that the individual and equal protection rights of LGBT people and their families would be in real jeoprady if he were confirmed.�

Separately, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund issued a release saying, �Judge Alito has a political agenda different from that required of members of the judiciary. It is based on his personal political ideology and stands apart from any principle that can be reasonably located in the Constitution.�

The National Black Justice Coalition board said, �No individual should be confirmed to the Supreme Court unless he or she has clearly demonstrated a strong commitment to the protection of civil rights and liberties, human rights, privacy and religious freedom. In these areas, the evidence reviewed to date shows that Judge Alito�s record is highly troubling.�

Congressional opposition is being led by the Congressional Black Caucus.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland, an attorney and caucus member, said she is most troubled by Alito�s rulings attempting to make it impossible for discrimination cases to be brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by raising the evidentiary standard required to continue the case, even before evidence is presented.

�He�s trying to block the steps before you even get into the courtroom,� said Tubbs Jones. �And it�s the same for GLBT cases.�

In the absence of language in the 1964 law protecting people from employment discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity, the concept of discrimination by sex stereotyping has been used increasingly to extend Title VII protection to GLBT people.

Two Ohio cases, Smith v. Salem and Barnes v. Cincinnati, have affirmed that use of Title VII. Others have since been filed around the country.

Title VII also guarantees protection from employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color, national origin, age and disability.

In its December 8 press conference, the Congressional Black Caucus pointed out that in his 15 years on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Alito has ruled on 18 Title VII cases, and was the lone dissenter in favor of discrimination in 14 of them.

According to District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who chairs the Black Caucus committee on judicial nominations, Alito expresses his dislike for Title VII suits by setting the evidentiary standard for the complaint higher than can be reached prior to testimony, giving cause to dismiss the cases before they can be tried.

Holmes Norton said that if on the high court, Alito would no longer be restrained, allowing him to be part of majorities that effectively dismantle Title VII.

�Judge Alito�s views are detrimental to the progress we have made over the last 50 years in the area of civil rights,� said Tubbs Jones.

Specifically, the caucus points to Bray v. Marriott Hotels, a Title VII case where Alito said the case should not have gone to trial, and was extreme enough in his position to be chastised by the majority, saying, �Title VII would be eviscerated if our analysis were to halt where the dissent [Alito] suggests.� The plaintiff in that case went on to prove her discrimination case against her employer.

The caucus has written letters to each of the senators, seven Democrats, seven Republicans, who came together over a deal to preserve the judicial filibuster known as the �Gang of 14,� of which Ohio Senator Mike DeWine is part.

The letter requests that Holmes Norton and Black Caucus chair Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina meet with the senators in order to discuss the caucus�s concern with Alito�s views on Title VII and other concerns.

Tubbs Jones said caucus�s goal is to have the meeting early the week of December 19. At press time, the senators have not responded to their request.

Tubbs Jones said it is important for DeWine and Senator George Voinovich to hear from Ohioans opposed to Alito�s confirmation.

The Congressional Black Caucus, according to Tubbs Jones, will also be working with senate Democrats, making sure they fully understand the civil rights issues of this nomination.

�Some will be with us, some won�t,� said Tubbs Jones. �It�s going to be tough, but just because it�s tough doesn�t mean we shouldn�t raise the banner.�

Tubbs Jones said she believes Alito�s record rises to the level of �extraordinary circumstances� needed to convince the seven �Gang of 14� Democrats to block him.

�This is worth fighting for,� said Tubbs Jones. �This is the 5-4 swing seat.�

 

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