Bush court Nominee Did Work for Landmark Gay-rights Case
By Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press
August 4, 2005
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- John Roberts, President Bush's nominee to the
Supreme Court, donated legal work on behalf of gay-rights groups that
helped them win a landmark 1996 case before that panel, according to
the Los Angeles Times.
While he was a private attorney, Roberts did several different kinds
of legal work to help prepare the attorneys arguing on the side of
gay-rights groups in Romer vs. Evans. That decision overturned a
Colorado law that struck down all local gay-rights provisions.
Justices in the 6-3 majority said the law violated gay and lesbian
Coloradoans' constitutional right to equal protection.
Romer vs. Evans was widely considered the most important legal victory
for the gay-rights movement up to that point. It provided some of the
legal basis for the Supreme Court's landmark 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas
decision, which invalidated laws that banned gay sex nationwide.
According to the Times, Roberts helped prepare the attorneys who
argued for the gay Coloradoans who protested the law. He contributed
help on legal briefs, and held moot-court sessions to ready the
attorneys for oral arguments before the high court.
At the time, Roberts was an attorney with the Washington firm Hogan &
Hartson. He had successfully argued several cases before the justices,
and the firm expected its lawyers to perform pro bono, or charity,
work for various causes.
The lawyer who headed the firm's pro bono department at the time said
Roberts did not hesitate when asked to help on the case. "He said,
'Let's do it.' And it's illustrative of his open-mindedness, his
fair-mindedness," Walter Smith told the newspaper. "He did a brilliant
The lead attorney for the case, who worked with Roberts, told the
paper that people directed her toward the nominee on the case.
"Everybody said Roberts was one of the people I should talk to," said
Jean Dubofsky, who was a former Colorado Supreme Court justice. "He
has a better idea on how to make an effective argument to a court that
is pretty conservative and hasn't been very receptive to gay rights."
Ironically, the three justices who dissented from the majority in
Romer vs. Evans are the ones to whom social conservatives have
favorably compared Roberts. In a minority opinion, authored by Justice
Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia excoriated the very legal
reasoning that Roberts reportedly recommended.
"Coloradans are entitled to be hostile toward homosexual conduct."
Scalia wrote, adding that the majority opinion had "no foundation in
American constitutional law, and barely pretends to."