Gay Republicans Defend Pickering Nomination

Judge Reiterates "All Americans Should Be Treated Equally Under the Law"; Log Cabin Republicans Joins Call to Approve Pickering Nomination and Send It to Senate Floor

March 11, 2002 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The nation's largest gay Republican organization joined a broadening coalition of local and national organizations calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the nomination of Judge Charles W. Pickering of Mississippi to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and to send it to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

"I have spoken with Judge Pickering at length, and have reviewed his record and consulted with several people around the country. Judge Pickering reiterated to me his strong belief that all Americans should be treated equally under the law, including gay and lesbian Americans, and his record as a federal judge clearly demonstrates it," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans.

Among several cases he has heard, two key cases from 1991 and 1994 demonstrated Pickering has followed the principle of equality under the law for gay Americans going back over a decade. In 1991, Pickering sharply rebuked an attorney who tried to use a plaintiff's homosexuality in a fraud trial. "Homosexuals are as much entitled to be protected from fraud as any other human beings," Pickering instructed the jury. "The fact that the alleged victims in this case are homosexuals shall not affect your verdict in any way whatsoever."

In 1994, an anti-gay citizens group in the town of Ovett, Mississippi launched a crusade of intimidation and threats to drive out Camp Sister Spirit, a lesbian community being built by a lesbian couple. When the group took Camp Sister Spirit to court, Judge Pickering threw their case out. This case was featured in Judge Pickering's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His civil rights record is long and distinguished. In 1967, Judge Pickering testified for the prosecution in a criminal hate-murder case against Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers in the death of an African American civil rights worker. When Jones County (MS) schools were racially integrated in the 1970's, Judge Pickering and his wife kept their children in the public school system when other white families removed their children. He was a featured speaker at Mississippi NAACP meetings as far back as 1976, when he was chairman of the Mississippi GOP.

In 1981, he defended an African American man who was falsely accused of robbing a white girl at knifepoint, forcing the case to a second trial after a hung jury and an eventual acquittal. In 1988, he convened and chaired a bipartisan, biracial committee to promote better race relations in Jones County, Mississippi.

Moreover, Judge Pickering was unanimously approved by the Democratic- controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in 1990 when he was nominated for District Court, gaining the votes of several Democratic Senators who today still sit on that committee. He was also approved by the full Senate, then under Democratic control. Pickering has the endorsement of the American Bar Association, a standard Senate Democrats demanded be applied to all judicial nominations from the Bush Administration.

"This isn't about fairness, because Judge Pickering's record is clearly on the side of fairness. This is not about civil rights, because Judge Pickering has strong support from the African American community in Mississippi and has a long record of supporting civil rights, and several Democrats leading the charge against him today voted for him 12 years ago," Tafel said. "If it's not about civil rights and fairness, then the Democrats should stop degrading the meaning of these important principles and be honest. If it's about partisan payback and attacking the President, they should level with the American people and stop smearing a man, in their pursuit of partisan politics, who has given his life to public service."

"Chairman Pat Leahy and Senator Joe Biden are blatantly applying a double standard, because both said over and over throughout the Clinton Administration that the U.S. Senate had the responsibility to bring judicial nominees to the floor for a vote," Tafel said. "But they know Judge Pickering will be approved on the Democratically-controlled Senate floor, so they are determined to break their own rules to kill his nomination for partisan reasons."

"The judge who threw out the anti-Camp Sister Spirit case and rebuked homophobia from the bench in the Deep South over ten years ago deserves a promotion, not a rebuke," Tafel said. "It is rare to have a judge with his record of support for equal treatment under the law on the federal bench, and Judge Pickering deserves to be voted onto the floor of the Senate immediately."

Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization, with state and local chapters nationwide, a full-time national office and a federal political action committee.