The AP is reporting that gay rights groups have come out against Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears' decision to join a think tank founded by an opponent of gay marriage.
Some consider Sears - the first black chief justice of a state supreme court - to be in the running to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by Justice Souter's retirement. The Institute for American Values was founded by David Blankenhorn, who
has stated that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples
"definitively undermines" the institution of marriage. Sears has
worked towards reducing the number of divorces in the United States,
but has not come out with a position on gay marriage since the Georgia
Supreme Court may have to rule on the issue one day. Gay rights groups
supported Sears' in her last election bid.
Sears claims that her
involvement with the institute springs from a desire to strengthen the
institution of marriage through a reduction in divorce.
rights groups' criticism here may be justified: after all, the
institute's founder seems to rule out the possibility of equality for
homosexual couples, and Sears' association with the organization could
be seen as an endorsement of his views.
Sears denies this, however, stating that the institute's members don't all share the same opinion on the issue. She wrote to the AP that "Blankenhorn happens to be on one side of this issue, and there are those on the other side."
Besides, do we really want a Supreme Court justice who isn't willing to at least examine all viewpoints? Judges
should be able to balance the issues and come up with the most just
outcome. From that angle, a judge who has exposed herself to many
differing and competing ideologies would be a benefit, not a detriment.
And are we willing to declare jurists guilty by association,
even when that association is for the purposes of debate and
Politics obviously plays a part here, and the
whole uproar just goes to show that even well-intentioned affiliations
can become political liabilities in a hurry.
Orin Kerr has an entertaining article
about the ideal Supreme Court justice's resume over at the Volokh
Conspiracy. He writes that, by the time the potential justice
accumulates the perfect balance of experience, she will have hit the
ripe old age of 153.
Perhaps Kerr should add that, along the way, the candidate should talk to no one and join no organization.