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By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
WASHINGTON – Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. became the nation’s 110th Supreme Court justice on Jan. 31, confirmed with one of the most partisan victories in modern history after a fierce battle over the future direction of the high court.
The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito – a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey – as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.
All but one of the Senate’s majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito; the smallest number of senators in the president’s opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history. Both of Michigan’s U.S. Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, voted against the confirmation.
LGBT human rights groups were uniformly disappointed by the confirmation.
“We are disappointed in the confirmation of Judge Alito to the United States Supreme Court,” said Eric Stern, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. “This nomination was made by the White House with the advance consultation of anti-family advocates who seek to use our courts to discriminate against same-sex families. The evasive answers given by Judge Alito to the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to address concerns of privacy and equal treatment under the law, and did little to counter the claims by radical groups that Judge Alito would serve their interests after confirmation.”
“With this confirmation, the Supreme Court likely will shift to the right and become a less welcoming forum for many kinds of civil rights claims. However, it is important for us to remember that the court still contains a majority of justices who ruled in favor of liberty and equality for gay people in Lambda Legal’s two recent Supreme Court successes that are the foundation for much of our community’s progress – Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans – and those cases remain the law of the land,” said Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart.
“The confirmation of Justice Alito is being much celebrated by those who oppose equality and fairness for all Americans,” Cathcart added. “But at Lambda Legal we firmly believe that time is on the side of continued legal progress for LBGT people. This is a movement for equality and there are bound to be ups and downs. Nonetheless, we know how to move forward steadily and surely, and we will continue to do so.”
“With the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Alito, Americans are threatened with an unprecedented erosion of our rights. Our opportunity to get back on the road to equality comes this November,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The senators who stepped up today to protect fairness by voting against Judge Alito’s confirmation were acting on America’s fundamental promise of equality. It’s time the halls of Congress were packed with fair-minded leaders.
Additional reporting provided by The Associated Press