As we noted yesterday, Sen. Sam Brownback finally got his opportunity to grill District Court nominee Janet Neff about her attendance at a commitment ceremony of a family friend who is a lesbian back in 2002, something he has been demanding, on and off, for several months.
As Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy noted in his statement on the hearing:
I wondered at the end of the last Congress whether it could really be that Judge Neff’s attendance at a commitment ceremony of a family friend failed some Republican litmus test of ideological purity, that her lifetime of achievement and qualifications were to be ignored, and that her nomination was to be pocket filibustered by Republicans.
[Judge Neff and two other nominees] were not re-nominated until March 19th of this year. I then hoped to move forward without a hearing, since they had a hearing late last year. As I had with the other re-nominations I wrote each Member of the Committee asking whether they were prepared to move forward or would request a hearing. No Member requested a hearing on any of the other district court nominees re-nominated who had previously had a hearing and who had been considered and favorably reported by the Committee. With respect to Judge Neff, Senator Brownback requested another hearing. That is his right. That is why she is appearing, again, today.
Brownback requested, and received, a second-hearing just so that he could demonstrate his anti-gay bona fides – which is exactly what he did:
Brownback said he was concerned that Neff’s participation in the ceremony meant she would prejudge cases involving marriage rights for gays and lesbians on the court, and asked her a series of questions about the details of the ceremony and whether it would affect her judgment.
“I was pleased to hear her responses and get them on the record,” Brownback said after the hearing. He repeated an earlier pledge to demand a roll-call vote on her nomination; routine judicial confirmations regularly are handled by voice vote, without each senator having to record a yes or no.
Neff described the ceremony as a private commitment ceremony for the daughter of a family that lived next door to the Neffs for 26 years. “It was a foregone conclusion that we would be invited and that we would attend,” she said. She said she read a homily during the 20-minute service.
Neff’s answers have apparently finally satisfied Brownback:
Brownback said he was satisfied the commitment ceremony did not qualify as a same-sex union and was glad for the opportunity to question Neff.
“This is just something that has bounced around for some time,” he said.
Brownback’s were the only questions for Neff. Only one other member of the committee was in attendance.
Neff’s attendance at the 2002 commitment ceremony has indeed been an issue “that has bounced around for some time” – primarily because Brownback himself has single-handedly insisted on making it an issue.