Justice Stevens Announces Retirement; Speculation Begins on Potential Nominees
April 9, 2010
The following post comes from HRC Law Fellow, Aaron Friedman: After months of speculation, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced today that he will retire when the Court’s term ends this summer. Stevens, who turns 90 this month, was appointed to the Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975. In the fall, when Stevens hired only one law clerk for the next term, Supreme Court watchers speculated that he was planning to retire at the end of the current session. At the beginning of the month, Stevens announced that he would surely retire while President Obama was in office. Often considered the leader of the liberal wing of the Court, Justice Stevens was fair minded in decisions that directly affected the LGBT community. In 1986, he dissented to Bowers v. Hardwick, a decision that upheld a Georgia sodomy laws. Seventeen years later, in Lawrence v. Texas, Stevens joined the majority of the court in overturning Bowers. The decision upheld the right for individuals to engage in private, consensual sexual conduct. Stevens also joined the majority in Romer v. Evans, striking down a Colorado initiative that banned towns and municipalities from passing LGB-friendly local ordinances. In his dissent to Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, Stevens wrote “every state law prohibiting discrimination is designed to replace prejudice with principle.” The 2000 decision allowed the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gay men from being Scoutmasters. Stevens’ retirement affords President Obama a second opportunity to leave his mark on the high court. Three names that are strongly suspected to be on the President’s short list are: Elena Kagan, 49, current Solicitor General of the United States; Diane Wood, 59, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; and Merrick B. Garland, 57, a federal judge on the United State Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Biographies for each of these individuals, as well as other potential nominees, can be found on HRC’s Equality in the Courts website. In choosing a replacement for Justice Stevens, HRC believes that the following criteria should be taken into consideration:
- A demonstrated commitment to full equality under law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans; individuals living with HIV and AIDS; women; people with disabilities and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities;
- A demonstrated commitment to the constitutional right to privacy and individual liberty, including the right of two consenting adults to enter into consensual intimate relationships
- Respect for the constitutional authority of Congress to promote equality and civil rights and provide statutory remedies for discrimination and violence;
- A sophisticated understanding of and commitment to the separation of church and state and the protection of those citizens with minority religious views;
- Respect for state legislatures' attempts to address discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity and other factors through carefully crafted legislation that meets the requirements of the Constitution.