My Photo
Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Subjecting nominees to 'the neighbor test'

Sam Brownback, the right-wing U.S. Senator from Kansas who's considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is playing to the party's fun-D'uh-Mental-ist fringe. Heck, there's nothing new about that. What is new is that he may be setting a new precedent for judicial nominees: the neighbor test.

Brownback has been blocking the nomination of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet T. Neff because she once attended a commitment ceremony for her lesbian neighbors in Massachusetts four years ago.

According to an Associated Press article:

"But what I want to know is, what does it do to her look at the law? What does she consider the law on same-sex marriage, on civil unions, and I'd want to consider that," Brownback said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." ...

Brownback called gay marriage a developing area of the law best not left to the judiciary anyway.

"To me these issues should be decided by the legislative bodies, not by the judicial bodies, and it seems to me this may indicate some view of hers on the legal issue. And that's what I'm concerned about here, is her view of the legal issue involving same-sex marriage," Brownback said.

In a letter to Brownback written back in October, Neff explained: "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."

Apparently Brownback is looking for a new precedent that can be used to disqualify "liberal" judges. (In Brownback's warped view, "liberal" means the nominees might actually have gay friends or believe that women have a right to control their own bodies.)

But Brownback's tactics may backfire. Suppose that, along with judicial philosophy, Senators can begin delving into other aspects of a judicial nominee's life. Imagine the scene in a Senate hearing room:

"Judge Smith, our background report says you once attended a barbecue at the home of one of your neighbor's who visited a white supremicist site on the Internet on three separate occasions. I'm sorry, but we'll have to disqualify you."

Or maybe this:

"Judge Thompson, I'm afraid we're going to have to disqualify you because your neighbor three doors down was once involved in the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue."

Far-fetched? Not really if the ever-oily Brownback gets his way. If one's neighbors can cause a judge's nomination can be blocked over living near liberals, it's only fair that the same can apply to judges whose neighbors are conservative.

In the twin interests of playing to the fundies and spreading anti-gay hate, Brownback has opened a Pandora's box. But like most reactionary conservatives, he's not bright enough to realize it ... until it turns around and bites him in the ass.