HA HA HA J/K! Sort of.
For all intents and purposes, Sotomayor is a happily single heterosexual. Sure, she divorced from her husband way back in 1983. And sure, she never remarried. And sure, she enjoys a best friendship with a gal pal that screams “Oprah-Gayle.”
But don’t let any of that make you think Obama is appointing a gay to the court — which seems to be the running theory on how the GOP could try to sabotage her appointment.
(But if Sotomayor were a lesbian, how amusing would it be that she would replace suspected gay David Souter?)
Where we should be connecting gays to Sotomayor, however, is with analysis on how she’ll swing when it comes to issues of equality.
Except she has barely any history on GLBT issues, as Chris Crain notes. Her 11 years with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit so far turns up nothing about gay or AIDS-related rulings, and neither did her six years a judge with the U.S. District Court judge in New York.
That hasn’t hasn’t stopped Gay Inc. from (cautiously) being optimistic about Sotomayor. But rest assured: Gay legal organizations like Lambda Legal and the ACLU’s LGBT division are launching a full court press (just like every other interest group) to see where she stands.
And then come the identity politics. In 2001 Sotomayor said that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion” than a “white male” judge. That touches on the “empathy” criteria President Obama said he was looking for; in theory, a person belonging to a minority would understand the plights of Americans better than a blinder-wearing person in the majority.
But that’s not always the case: Gays can be racist, blacks can be anti-gay, and Jews can hate Muslims.
So as we prepare for Sotomayor’s confirmation (we expect the Senate Democrats to OK her without much fanfare), the question remains: What can she do for us? Are we looking at a woman who will understand the importance of equality and privacy? Or do we know so little about where Sotomayor stands that assuming she’s an ally is too great a risk?
UPDATE: Is this 33-year-old letter co-signed by Sotomayor, sent to Princeton’s student newspaper, the only piece of evidence we have that she’s a gay ally?