A Republican senator is stalling a Michigan judge’s nomination to the federal bench because she reportedly helped lead a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple four years ago.
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, an opponent of homosexual “marriage” who has presidential aspirations, said yesterday he wants to know whether there was anything illegal or improper about the ceremony in Massachusetts.
He also said he wants to question Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet T. Neff about her views on homosexual “marriage” and how her actions may shape her judicial philosophy.
“It seems to speak about her view of judicial activism,” Mr. Brownback said. “That’s something I want to inquire of her further.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved Judge Neff’s nomination for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Michigan’s Western District. Her nomination is now pending before the full Senate.
A single senator can block a nomination from moving forward by placing a hold on it.
Mr. Brownback said Republican activists in Michigan expressed concerns about Judge Neff after seeing her name in a September 2002 New York Times “Weddings/Celebrations” announcement. It said Judge Neff led the commitment ceremony for Karen Adelman and Mary Curtin with the Rev. Kelly A. Gallagher, a minister of the United Church of Christ.
While commitment ceremonies marking the union of same-sex couples have grown increasingly common, they are largely symbolic and carry no legal benefits. Mr. Brownback said he wanted to find out whether Judge Neff may have presided over “an illegal marriage ceremony” that skirted Massachusetts law, which did not recognize homosexual “marriage” at the time.
The state later legalized gay “marriage” in 2004 — the only state to do so — after a ruling from its highest court.
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, who learned about the ceremony this week, said based on the newspaper announcement it didn’t sound like Judge Neff did anything illegal.
“There’s no reason why two people can’t stand up and exchange commitments with each other provided they don’t do anything illegal,” Mr. Levin said.
Mr. Brownback cited recent instances in California and New York where local officials issued “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples contrary to existing laws.
“I don’t know what she did,” Mr. Brownback said. “That’s why there’s a factual question.”
Mr. Brownback has asked the U.S. Justice Department for a formal legal opinion in addition to asking Judge Neff specific questions.
Judge Neff, 61, has served on the Michigan Court of Appeals since 1989. She was nominated by President Bush in June — along with Grand Rapids attorney Robert Jonker and Berrien County Circuit Judge Paul Maloney — to fill three vacancies on the district court.