Focus On Gay Nominee: From “Not Even Pertinent” to “Non Starter”

As we noted in our earlier post, before President Obama named his nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, Religious Right groups were staking out the position that a gay nominee would not necessarily warrant their opposition:

In a move that will surprise gay activists and liberals, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, a top religious right group, tells me that his organization has no problem with GOP Senator Jeff Sessions‘ claim today that he’s open to a Supreme Court nominee with “gay tendencies.”

The spokesperson confirms the group won’t oppose a gay SCOTUS nominee over sexual orientation.

“We agree with Senator Sessions,” Bruce Hausknecht, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, which was founded by top religious right figure James Dobson, told me a few minutes ago. “The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not.”

Their sexual orientation “should never come up,” he continued. “It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”

“Our concern at the Supreme Court is judicial philosophy,” FOF spokesperson Hausknecht continued. “Sexual orientation only becomes an issue if it effects their judging.” For example, he said, “If someone says, `I don’t care what the law says, on the next case involving sexual orientation, I’m going to decide the case in favor of the openly gay party,’ that would be a breach of judicial duty.”

Contrast that with the “clarification” Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery gave today to Peter LaBarbera:

“It has been reported that we would not oppose any U.S. Supreme Court nominee over their ’sexual orientation.’ Our Judicial Analyst [Bruce Hausknecht] made a statement to this effect in an interview with The Plum Line. To be honest, this is one of those conversations we’d like to ‘do over.’ We can assure you that we recognize that homosexual behavior is a sin and does not reflect God’s created intent and desire for humanity. Further, we at Focus do affirm that character and moral rectitude should be key considerations in appointing members of the judiciary, especially in the case of the highest court in the land. Sexual behavior–be it heterosexual or homosexual–certainly lies at the heart of personal morality.”

Greg Sargent, to whom Hausknecht gave the above statement last year, understandably wanted to find out why Focus was suddenly backtracking, but Minnery inists that the group is doing nothing of the sort – it’s just that Hausknecht got it wrong last time

“I don’t think it’s correct to say we’re backtracking,” he told me. “We didn’t get it right the first time.”

Asked if the new statement meant that being homosexual is a deal-breaker, Minnery replied: “Someone who is a practicing homosexual is a non starter for the group.” Asked if this was the case no matter what the person’s views, he replied: “That’s correct.”

A year ago, Focus on the Family said that a SCOTUS nominee’s sexual orientation was “not even pertinent” to the question of whether they were qualified for the court. 

Today, Focus on the Family says that gays are sinners and immoral and the idea of not opposing a “practicing homosexual is a non starter,” based solely on their sexual orientation.

All the while insisting that the group is not “backtracking.”