Newspaper article Roll Call

Reagan Aides Foresaw Kennedy Gay-Rights Views That Conservatives Now Lament

Newspaper article Roll Call

Reagan Aides Foresaw Kennedy Gay-Rights Views That Conservatives Now Lament

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Reagan Aides Foresaw Kennedy Gay-Rights Views That Conservatives Now Lament

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* By Todd Ruger

* Roll Call Staff

* June 26, 2015, 1:10 p.m.

The origins of Friday's landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage can be traced back almost 30 years to the Senate's confirmation process for justices.

Officials in President Ronald Reagan's administration, reeling after two failed nominees to the court, were looking for a reliable conservative who could get Senate confirmation. They found him in U.S. Circuit Judge Anthony Kennedy.

But CQ's review of documents in the Reagan Library in California found the president's aides identified "disturbing aspects" in Kennedy's record. Foremost among them: Kennedy's actions in a gay rights case.

Kennedy on Friday cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion in the same-sex marriage case, an opinion that vindicates both the fears of Reagan's advisers about Kennedy and the liberal forces that opened the path to his nomination all those years ago.

Kennedy's opinion ends with a description of same-sex couples seeking the profound union of marriage like love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.

"Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions," Kennedy wrote. "They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Settling on Kennedy

The Senate had rejected the conservative legal intellectual powerhouse, Circuit Judge Robert Bork, in October 1987. Two weeks later, Reagan's next pick, solidly conservative Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew from consideration after admitting he had smoked marijuana. Reagan then turned to Kennedy.

"One of the benefits-significant benefits-of defeating Robert Bork was the confirmation of Anthony Kennedy," Nan Aron, the president of Alliance For Justice, who fought against Bork's nomination, told CQ this week. "There's no question that the Robert Bork defeat paved the way for the Supreme Court decision in the same- sex marriage case. …

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