The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to vote on Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court early next week, sending it to debate and a final vote by the full Senate. Perhaps now more than ever, our nation’s high court will play a critical role in determining the place of LGBT people in our society. This year, the National Center for Lesbian Rights was counsel in one case before the U.S. Supreme Court—Christian Legal Society v. Martinez—and participated as an amicus in another, Doe v. Reed. In both cases, the Court issued favorable decisions. In Martinez, the Court affirmed the validity of anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. In Reed, the Court rejected an attempt by anti-gay groups to make it easier for voters to pass laws targeting LGBT people and other minorities. In the next few years, the Court likely will hear cases addressing the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and, possibly, of Proposition 8, the anti-marriage amendment enacted by California in 2008. The stakes for our community couldn’t be higher.
General Kagan has been nominated to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, who has been a champion for equality and the rights of minorities and women in a number of key cases, including several cases specifically addressing the rights of LGBT people. General Kagan is undoubtedly well qualified to serve on the court, having served in one of the highest positions at the Department of Justice and as a widely respected legal scholar and dean of Harvard Law School. We fervently hope that she, too, will prove to be a strong defender of the core democratic principles of freedom, equal justice, and equal protection of the laws.
To help you get to know General Kagan, we’ve collected some materials that present a variety of viewpoints on her distinguished career, judicial philosophy, and numerous accomplishments (including a few more critical voices to show some of the opposition’s arguments). This is but a small sampling of the information available about the nominee, but these sources give a sense of her impressive credentials.
1. From the White House Blog: Elena Kagan: “Supportive Of the Men And Women Who Are Fighting To Protect Us”:
2. From the United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees:
3. From Alliance for Justice
a. “Supreme Court Watch: The Kagan Nomination”:
b. Report on Elena Kagan:
c. Report on Elena Kagan’s Testimony:
4. From the American Civil Liberties Union: Report on the nomination of Elena Kagan:
5. From the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: Elena Kagan Confirmation Hearings Resources:
6. From Art Leonard, Professor of Law, New York Law School: “The Kagan Appointment and the Question of Judicial Experience”:
7. From the Human Rights Campaign: “HRC Endorses Solicitor General Elena Kagan for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court”:
8. From the Justice at Stake Campaign: “Replacing Justice Stevens”: http://www.justiceatstake.org/resources/replacing_justice_stevens.cfm
9. From the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: “Obama Nominates Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court”:
10. From the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: “NAACP Endorses Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan”:
11. From the National Partnership for Women and Families: “A Superb Choice, Kagan Will Impress All Senators With Fair and Open Minds, Women’s Leader Says”: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=25003
12. From the National Women’s Law Center:
a. “NWLC Endorses Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan”: http://www.nwlc.org/details.cfm?id=3896§ion=newsroom
b. “NWLC to Testify in Support of Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan:” http://nwlc.org/details.cfm?id=3902§ion=newsroom
c. “The Supreme Court: Why it Matters to Women”: http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/WhyItMatterstoWomen.pdf
13. From New America Media: “Kagan’s Affirmative Action Achilles’ Heel”:
14. From the New York Times:
a. “Obama Picks Kagan, Scholar but Not Judge, for Court Seat”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/us/politics/11court.html
b. “A Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/us/politics/10kagan.html
c. “Kagan Promises ‘Modest’ Approach”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/us/politics/29kagan.html
15. From the Washington Post:
a. “Confirm Elena Kagan”:
b. “Foes may target Kagan’s stance on military recruitment at Harvard”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/17/AR2010041701296.html
Who sits on the bench makes a difference, at every level of court, but especially on our nation’s highest court. For our democracy to endure, we must have justices who reflect the diversity of our country and who have an unflinching commitment to the principle that every person is entitled to be treated as an equal, respected, and participating member of society.
For all of these reasons, next week’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote on General Kagan is key.