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One Step Forward, One Step Backward

May 26, 2009

Today’s good news: President Obama announced Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. If appointed, Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic — and only the third female — United States Supreme Court justice.

Today’s bad news: The California Supreme Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8, the constitutional revision that defines marriage in the state 0f California as being between a man and a woman. The court also ruled, however, that the estimated 18,000 marriages between same-sex couples that have already occurred in California are still valid. For those feeling a need to take action, has a state-by-state list of anti-Proposition 8 protests taking place across the country this evening.

Change is a slow process, but it does happen. We just need to work for that change, and remain hopeful that our work will yield results.

EDIT — For more on Sotomayor’s excellent qualifications, check out this list of her notable court opinions.

  1. May 26, 2009 2:24 pm

    I think the news that speak more about racial makeup than qualification is bad news. Physical appearance should be meaningless when selecting members of the SCOTUS.

    • Carrie permalink
      May 26, 2009 2:38 pm

      It was my error not to post this initially, but make no mistake — Sotomayor is quite qualified. You can read about her notable court opinions here:

      Furthermore, it is my belief that the court’s racial and gender makeup is not necessarily superficial. It should never be the most important reason in nominating or appointing an individual, but the fact that a qualified woman of color was selected for this esteemed nomination does suggest progress for our nation.

      • May 26, 2009 8:07 pm

        The fact that people hang on color means MLK’s work was largely wasted.

        My problem with Sotomayor is that she wants to create policy from the bench, which is not at all the judge’s or SCOTUS’ job or duty. I want a justice that will look at the consitution as it is, and not how they would like it to be.

    • Carrie permalink
      May 26, 2009 9:11 pm

      I would agree with you if Sotomayor was not qualified, or if race was the sole factor in deciding the nomination. However, in this instance, that’s not the case. In this instance, a qualified candidate rightfully received recognition, and it just so happens that this qualified individual is a woman of color. And considering she’s the first woman of color in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States, the nomination is historic and worthy of note. It is, in fact, proof of Dr. King’s successful legacy that such history has been made.

      As for “creating policy from the bench,” I’m really not sure where you’re getting that from. If you really look at her record, she’s actually quite moderate — some of her previous opinions could be seen as liberal, others as conservative. That tells me that she does look at the constitution itself, because the opinions she writes are based on the specific issues at hand, rather than on her overall viewpoint of a political issue. Though I don’t personally agree with all of her decisions, I’m relieved that her rulings are so moderate, as that suggests that she rules on a case-by-case basis, and is not influenced by any overarching personal biases.

      • May 27, 2009 7:34 am

        Here’s her view of making policy from the bench:

        To see this blatant disregard for her duties and overstepping into policy-making is frightenting. Judges are umpires, and should not be involved in the game.

        Your contention that Sotomayor “just so happens that this qualified individual is a woman of color” is a little off. Of the top 6 potential nominees, can you name the person who wasn’t a minority or female (or both). All of these potentials were motivated by politics first, and other factors later. This is problematic. She has a long track-record, yes, but there were plenty of others with similar or longer records that were passed over. So, I guess the qualification argument really doens’t hold water for me.

        Furthermore, her statement of “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” sickens me. Had a white man said the reverse statement, there would have been an uproar. This is racist and hypocritical, and there is no room for either on the Supreme Court, or anywhere for that matter. If that’s not personal bias, I’m not sure what is…

  2. alsimoni permalink
    May 26, 2009 9:47 pm

    In regards to physical appearance – race, gender, etc. – being meaningless, I think it’s worth remembering that simply because Sotomayor is the first woman of color to be nominated does not mean that this is the first, or even the third, time that gender or color has played a part in a nomination. Although rarely, if ever, mentioned, white men also have a race and a gender. And I would argue that the fact of both their whiteness and their maleness has played a part in virtually every Supreme Court nomination to date.

  3. Alison permalink
    May 27, 2009 1:48 pm

    Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post “About that ‘Wise Latina’ Statement” offers some thoughtful perspective on Sotomayor’s unfortunate statement:

    And I think it’s safe to say that the argument “Had a white man said the reverse statement, there would have been an uproar” doesn’t really work, since obviously no one is overlooking this one statement of hers.

    • May 27, 2009 2:46 pm

      Actually, many have overlooked this… especially her proponents.

      • Alison permalink
        May 27, 2009 3:26 pm

        I think her proponents are a little more focused on her long list of qualifications.

        My point is, clearly quite a number of people are in an uproar about her comment. It’s all over the blogosphere. Again, I’ll point to TNC’s commentary on that one, an example of a proponent of hers using the comment as a source of discussion, not just as a reason to dismiss her completely.

        Above all, it would be remiss to not celebrate the nomination of a well-qualified woman of color to the Supreme Court. In an interesting discussion here (, NYU Law Professor Cristina M. Rodríguez writes:

        “Discussion should turn immediately to a critical evaluation of her long record as a judge and to eliciting her judicial philosophy and views on the issues the Court will face in coming years. Women and minorities are owed at least this form of respect. The public debate about the nomination and our discourse on race and gender relations will be better for it. Indeed, the bare fact that she is a Latina tells us little about what sort of Supreme Court justice she would be, or how her presence would affect the dynamics of the Court, though her views have likely been shaped by who she is and how her life has unfolded.

        That said, it is appropriate to pause on the biographical significance of her nomination. I fervently hope that it will represent a major step toward a time when the nomination of a woman to the Court is unremarkable and unremarked upon. And, even if talk of the ‘representation’ of racial and ethnic minorities on the Court is unseemly, Latinos of all backgrounds are likely to feel great pride in the presence of a Latina on the Court — a sense of arrival similar to the sentiments that accompanied President Obama’s election and inauguration. “

      • Jay permalink
        May 27, 2009 3:54 pm

        @LOUDelf: You are simply regurgitating the boilerplate rhetoric that is being spewed all over the blogs and television all day yesterday and today. To claim that her proponents are overlooking that line is patently false. What her proponents are attempting to do (for the most part) is contextualize the statement to make it less loaded. What her opponents are doing (all over the internet, in more eloquent words than you) is to remove context and attribute a bunch of racist attitudes on a woman they knew nothing about before a couple of weeks ago. For a more thorough debunking of the white male indignation card as it relates to Sonia Sotomayor and her critics, I refer you to basically anywhere on the internet.

  4. May 28, 2009 10:05 am


    How can we in one sentence “celebrate the nomination of a well-qualified woman of color to the Supreme Court”, and in the next tell people to focus on accomplishment? Color, and race should not at all be issues, especially with judges, who are supposed to be blind umpires of justice.

    I don’t care about a judge’s politics, unless it causes them to step from their roles as interpreters of law, and into policy-making. I want them to be objective, like Ginsberg, who believes that wisdom can be equally possessed among gender and race. But when we have a nominee who openly flouts these things, and outwardly wonders if someone (obviously looking at herself) can be truly objective, I have a moutainous problem.

    The more we talk about her gender and race, and not about her track record (one of the longest in history), we are discussing the wrong issues here. The more we make race or gender and issue, the longer it will remain an issue for discrimination. We need to move forward from this.

    • Alison permalink
      May 28, 2009 11:23 am

      You can absolutely celebrate the fact that she is a woman, and that she is accomplished, all at once. As far as your concern about a nominee who “openly flouts these things, and outwardly wonders if someone (obviously looking at herself) can be truly objective,” I’ll refer you to this example of her work:

      I don’t think that ignoring race and gender is the solution here. Her track record is most important, yes, but it would be a mistake to ignore what a big step it is for a Latina woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Do you think it was a mistake for this country to celebrate our first African American President?

      Maybe when racism and gender inequalities no longer exist, we can move forward from this discussion.

  5. May 28, 2009 10:12 am


    If you’re going to make a point, don’t refer me to “anywhere on the internet”, use a specific. Show HOW she’s been taken out of context. Prove that her proponents have not overlooked this as they’ve gushed her praises.

    What you’ve done is regurgitate points already posted here, attempted an insult, and proved zero. Great job!

  6. Jay permalink
    May 28, 2009 11:30 am

    You can find more information supporting my contention at: anywhere on the internet.

    • Jay permalink
      May 28, 2009 11:46 am

      Here’s another one, called “Sotomayor in Context”:

      And Sullivan’s been fairly neutral on her anyway.

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