By now, most people have seen the photo of a beaming Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, holding their newborn grandson, Samuel. Baby Samuel was born on May 23 to the Cheneys' lesbian daughter, Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe. By all accounts, Dick Cheney and Mary are very close, and there's no reason to suspect that the love evident in that photo is anything but genuine.
Yet while I'm happy for the Cheneys and for Poe, every time I see that photo, I'm struck by an incredible irony. At the same time that Dick Cheney is celebrating this joyous family event, his boss -- President Bush -- and their cronies in the Senate are pushing for the confirmation of a federal judicial nominee who appears to think that being gay is a "choice," and that one of the legally acceptable consequences of this "choice" is the possibility of having your child taken away from you.
Leslie Southwick, the President's pick for a lifetime seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, used to be a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. In that position, he joined a decision, over a strong dissent, upholding a chancellor's ruling taking custody of an eight-year-old girl away from her birth mother, in large measure because the mother was living with another woman in a "lesbian home."
Southwick went even further and also joined a gratuitously anti-gay concurring opinion extolling Mississippi's right, under "the principles of Federalism," to treat gay men and lesbians like second-class citizens. The concurring opinion suggests that sexual orientation is a choice, and states that while "any adult may choose any activity in which to engage . . . such person is not thereby relieved of the consequences of his or her choice," in this case, losing one's child.
Southwick's record is not only bad on gay people (or, in his words, "homosexual individuals"), it's also bad on the rights of African Americans and workers. In one case, and again over harsh dissents, Southwick joined an opinion upholding the reinstatement without any disciplinary action of a white state employee who had been fired for calling a co-worker a "good ole nigger." The ruling was unanimously reversed by the Mississippi Supreme Court, hardly a bastion of liberal judges.
Southwick's record is so disturbing that his confirmation to the Fifth Circuit is opposed by such groups as the NAACP of Mississippi, the Magnolia Bar Association (the African American bar of Mississippi), the Human Rights Campaign, the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Employment Lawyers Association, the Alliance for Justice, and People For the American Way.
Baby Samuel Cheney can't afford to have Leslie Southwick on a federal court for the remainder of his life, and neither can the rest of America.
If you agree, the Senators on the Judiciary Committee need to hear from you now.
More information about Leslie Southwick's record can be found here