EQUALITY IN THE COURTS: Sotomayor Questioned on Marriage Related Issues
July 15, 2009
In this blog series, HRC attorneys discuss news and break down legal theories relevant to a U.S. Supreme Court nomination and the recent retirement of Justice David Souter. Today was the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Senators have been questioning Judge Sotomayor about her views on everything from “judicial empathy” to abortion. LGBT issues made their first appearance today when Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, asked Judge Sotomayor about a 1972 marriage equality cased called Baker v. Nelson. In Nelson, the Supreme Court of Minnesota interpreted the state’s marriage statute as applicable only to heterosexual couples and held that such an interpretation did not violate either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal for want of a substantial federal question. As a result, the decision of the Minnesota court remained good law. As the only U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, Senator Grassley asked Judge Sotomayor if Nelsonwas binding precedent on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor parsed the need to apply Nelson and said she can’t recall the holding in Nelson. Senator Grassley was clearly frustrated with her answer stating, “why are you hedging on this?” Senator Grassley followed up with a question on DOMA. Does it violate the Constitution? Sotomayor refuses to answer because of the pending DOMA cases. Watch the interchange for yourself:
The hearing continues tomorrow with more questions from Senators and witnesses both for and against Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. HRC will continue to monitor the confirmation hearing, be sure to check back with us on our Equality in the Courts website for up-to-date information and commentary.
May 23, 2013