Hearings on Roberts Begin; Groups Opposing Roberts Hold Demonstrations
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on John Roberts for the Supreme Court begin today. Women’s and civil rights groups held a dawn vigil and a lunchtime demonstration today to urge Senators to vote “no” on Roberts.
“As Chief Justice, John Roberts would be in the nation’s top judicial leadership position and could lead the rollback of the gains made by women and people of color over the past 40 years,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. His record indicates he would greatly weaken anti-discrimination statutes in employment and education; ignore wage discrimination; gut Title IX; water down voting rights; cut back affirmative action; eliminate the right to privacy (which he has mocked); and reverse Roe v. Wade.
Heightening the already grave concerns of women’s rights organizations is Roberts’ position on sex discrimination and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Based on documents released from Roberts’ time in the Reagan Administration, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) concluded that Roberts “objected to, and was willing simply to ignore,” the settled principle that laws or government policies that discriminate “on the basis of sex [are] subject to ‘heightened scrutiny’ – and will be struck down unless the government can show it has an ‘exceedingly persuasive justification’ for the discrimination.” In several memos, Roberts argued that only racial discrimination is covered in the 14th Amendment’s required heightened scrutiny, not sex discrimination. This same view was expressed by Robert Bork during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and it was one of the main reasons he was rejected, along with his views on the right to privacy. This view is very dangerous for women’s opportunities and protection from discrimination – as the NWLC explains, “[i]n the absence of an Equal Rights Amendment, it is this very constitutional guarantee that has prevented states and the federal government from limiting women’s careers, their service on juries, the family benefits to which they are entitled while serving in the military, educational opportunities, social security benefits for their families, and equal treatment for women in a myriad of other ways.”