Brownback Drops Hold On Gay-Friendly Judge Nominee

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a backer of the Religious Right agenda, has relented in his quest to block a judicial nominee who attended a same-sex union ceremony.

Late last year, Brownback announced that when the new Senate convened in January, he would not continue to hold up a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Michigan State Judge Janet Neff. Brownback blocked Neff’s nomination for a U.S. District Court seat last year because he discovered that in 2002 the judge attended and gave a homily at a ceremony celebrating the union of a same-sex couple.

One of the women in the ceremony was the daughter of a family that lived next door to Neff for more than two decades.

During the closing days of the session, Brownback said he would remove his block if Neff would agree to recuse herself from cases involving the issue of same-sex marriage. Brownback’s proposal was quickly criticized by legal scholars as constitutionally suspect. 

Charles Fried, a Harvard Law School professor, whom the Times described as a “leading conservative scholar,” criticized Brownback’s actions.

“For her to agree to any such restriction in this would be wrong,” Fried said.

On Dec. 19, The New York Times reported that Brownback said Neff’s involvement in the ceremony still troubles him and warrants further investigation, but that he would no longer stymie a vote on the nomination.