Obama urged to consider gay rights when appointing federal judges

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A legal organisation that fights for the civil rights of lesbians and gay men has urged the President-elect of the United States and the Senate to appoint judges who will treat the LGBT community fairly.

In his eight years in office, current President George W Bush has appointed more than 300 judges to the federal bench.

“It is no secret that the Bush Administration’s goal was to pack the federal courts at all levels with arch-conservative judges who would be unfriendly to the vigorous protection of civil rights – not only for gay people, but for everyone,” said Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart.

“To start, President-Elect Obama will have 54 vacancies to fill and we hope that those nominees can provide balance to what has become a federal system that is often hostile the gay community.”

Lambda Legal has sent a letter to President-Elect Obama and the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining the need for fair and impartial nominees to the federal bench who will address issues facing the gay community without bias.

The Senate confirms the President’s choices for the federal bench, including the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, Circuit Judges of the courts of appeals, and district judges of the United States district courts.

“In the coming years, a number of key issues that significantly impact the gay community are likely to arise in the federal courts,” said Mr Cathcart.

“The foremost consideration in nominating federal judges should be their commitment to rendering decisions impartially.”

Lambda Legal wants President-elect Obama to nominate federal justices who adhere to precedents established in cases of importance to the gay community, including the right to privacy, protection against laws based on anti-gay bias, the right to sue in state courts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and protections against HIV discrimination, among others.

The group wants “judicial integrity through nomination of jurists who represent the nation’s diversity including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, people of colour, women, and those with public defender and public interest legal backgrounds.”

The US Senate is holding confirmation hearings for Eric Holder, the President-elect’s pick for Attorney General.

HRC said it been focused on the confirmation of Eric Holder “because it is imperative to the LGBT community, and to the country, that we have an Attorney General who is committed to making civil rights a priority and who will rigorously enforce all civil rights protections.

“It is clear that Eric Holder will be that Attorney General.”

Mr Holder would be the first African-American to hold the office.

In 1999 as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration, he spoke in favour of federal laws against homophobic hate crimes.

President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden have committed themselves to strengthening federal hate crimes protection by extending it to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Barack Obama will take the oath of office in Washington DC on Tuesday, becoming the 44th President of the United States.