One Equal World

Justice Scalia’s Empty Seat

Posted on: March 1, 2016

Image taken from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016, at age 79 in Texas.

Image taken from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016, at age 79 in Texas.

The eyes of all concerned with gay rights have been drawn to a single point this February – the empty seat left on the Supreme Court by the death of Justice Scalia. Filling it won’t be easy. A huge number of Republicans Congressmen have already joined voices in claiming that Democratic President Obama should leave the seat empty until next January, deferring the appointment to the next president. But leaving it open for 11 months would not only be an unprecedented gap, it’s just unnecessary. No Supreme Court Appointee has ever taken more than two months to be approved or denied.

The Democratic National Committee released a short video recently about the importance of an Obama Appointee, particularly to the LGBT community. The 57-second video, titled “We’re Not Done,” features Democratic LGBT advocates talking about the gaps still left in their rights. While the Supreme Court has made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, it still has no firm ruling on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, or in the medical profession. Only a set of vague precedents.

The next Appointee could tip the balance on the Court from Conservative to Liberal, which could be a powerful force if a Republican government is elected this November. This is also why the notorious Republican ‘Senate of No’ has assured us all that they will not allow Obama to appoint any replacement, even promising (illegally) that they won’t even hold a hearing on a nominee.

However, a nomination still must happen. Even if they don’t get approved, whoever Obama nominates will be a statement that he doesn’t respect the Senate’s obstructionism. And he could give that statement even more power with a bold, precedent-setting choice: Monica Márquez. Latina, Democrat, and a Lesbian.

Márquez has been seated on the Colorado Supreme Court for the past five years, with a strong curriculum vitae. She has clerked for two federal judges, one of them a Republican, earning her cross-party respect. Under more ordinary circumstances, she wouldn’t be considered quite ready for an Appointment – usually a job on the federal circuit courts comes first. But she’s not going to be approved, so normal matters a little less. What matters is the statement she’d make. The visibility would also help establish Márquez as a natural choice for a future Democratic President’s nomination.

This would be a risky, exhausting gamble. Márquez, or whoever is nominated, would have to go into it with their eyes wide open and with full consent. But it would be a great shout for LGBT rights.


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