Sunday 04 May 2003
President Bush this week nominated Claude A. Allen, a supporter of conservative former Sen. Jesse Helms, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Maryland and Virginia.
Allen, 42, becomes the eighth federal judicial nominee named by Bush to hold views considered hostile to gay civil rights, according to the Alliance for Justice, a progressive watchdog group that monitors judicial appointments.
Allen, whose nomination was announced on April 28, has been one of the Bush administration's leading advocates for abstinence-only programs aimed at curtailing the spread of AIDS in his current job as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
In 1984, he served as press secretary for the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), considered one of the strongest opponents of gay civil rights among all members of Congress at the time. Helms and his supporters attacked then-Gov. James Hunt, Helms' Democratic opponent, for receiving campaign support from gays.
According to the National Journal, when Hunt responded by saying Helms was being backed by right-wing radicals, an angered Allen replied that Hunt had links "with the queers." Helms retired from the Senate in January.
"Fair-minded senators should be very concerned about Allen's radical record of opposition to a woman's right to choose, equal rights for gays and lesbians, and his unfounded and dangerous belief that denying students access to proper sex education will keep them safe," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice.
The National Stonewall Democrats, a gay Democratic political group, said it would join groups like the Alliance for Justice in monitoring Allen's responses to questions during his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing.
"Allen's nomination is an opportunity for him to explain whether, and how, he has outgrown these beliefs," said NSD Executive Director Dave Noble, in referring to Allen's 1984 reference to gays as "queers." "Democrats have dramatically widened their understanding of the gay and lesbian community over the past two decades, and I would hope that Allen has done the same," Noble said.
Earlier this year, Allen told a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS that he understood the special AIDS prevention needs for high-risk groups such as gay men. He said he would not oppose HIV prevention programs advocating condom use under certain circumstances.
But administration critics note that Allen has pushed for HIV prevention programs in the nation's public schools that advocate abstaining from all sexual relations until marriage. Gay and AIDS activists have said such a position is harmful to gay youth, who know that marriage is not an option for them and who need information about how to protect themselves from HIV.
In addition to Maryland and Virginia, the 4th Circuit includes West Virginia and North and South Carolina. Although the 4th Circuit has one of the largest minority populations among the appeals court circuits, it has had the fewest number of minority judges.
During the Clinton administration, Republicans in the Senate blocked four African-American nominees named by Clinton to the 4th Circuit on grounds that they were too liberal. Clinton argued that his nominees were moderates and that the motive of the Republican opponents was to retain the 4th Circuit's status as a conservative appeals court.
Political observers say a number of Democratic senators who oppose Allen's positions on the issues are likely to vote for his confirmation on grounds that more minorities are needed on the 4th Circuit bench.
Aron of the Alliance for Justice acknowledged in an April 29 statement that race could play a role in the Allen nomination given that Allen is black.
"While I congratulate President Bush for recognizing, albeit belatedly, the need for racial diversity on this court, which has the highest percentage of African-American citizens of any circuit, his nomination of Claude Allen only proves further the White House's determination to make judicial nominations a dividing, rather than uniting, issue."
HRC meets Mosman
In a related development, another Bush judicial nominee, who is credited with successfully lobbying Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell to uphold Georgia's anti-gay sodomy law in 1986, told gay activists and the Portland Oregonian last week that he does not harbor anti-gay views.
The nominee, Michael Mosman, was a law clerk to the late Justice Powell in the 1980s. Two recently published books report that he argued forcefully behind the scenes in support of the Georgia sodomy law, reportedly prompting Powell to cast the deciding vote in favor of the law in the landmark 1986 decision known as Bowers vs. Hardwick. Bush now wants him to serve as a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon.
Mosman's nomination has been backed by both of the U.S. senators from Oregon, Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Gordon Smith, who are also generally supportive of gay rights and have called for the reversal of Bowers vs. Hardwick. Senators are typically influential in the selection of federal judges, putting Mosman and his Senate backers in a difficult political position, according to a report in the Portlane Oregonian.
According to the newspaper, Mosman met on April 25 with representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political group, and an Oregon gay rights group. Mosman currently serves as U.S. Attorney for Oregon.
The newspaper said Mosman told its editorial board on April 28 that he personally opposes sodomy laws and that, as an Oregon resident, he voted against anti-gay ballot initiatives in Oregon in 1992, 1994 and 2000. He said he treats gays with "respect and civility and tolerance," the newspaper said.
HRC spokesperson David Smith said HRC and the gay group Basic Rights Oregon would issue a joint statement late this week announcing whether the two groups support or oppose Mosman's nomination. Smith said the decision would be based on Mosman's meeting with the groups and the groups' consultation with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a gay rights supporter who has also met with Mosman.
Mosman called the meeting "productive" and said he was happy to answer questions raised by the gay representatives, the Oregonian reported.
Mosman did not return a call to the Blade by press time.
In another development, the Senate voted 52 to 41 on April 29 to confirm Bush's nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Sutton is among the Bush judicial nominees cited by the Alliance for Justice claims for having hostile views toward gay civil rights.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)