When California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer issued a tentative ruling in six consolidated legal cases yesterday, he instantly became a member of one of the nation's fastest growing fraternities: Republican-appointed judges who have issued rulings expanding rights for gay men and lesbians.
Kramer, who ruled yesterday that California's "denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary," was appointed to the bench in 1996 by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. In issuing his opinion, Kramer followed in the footsteps of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled 4-3 in favor of marriage rights in 2003. That decision was the handiwork of Republican appointees, too: It was written by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who was appointed to the court by Republican Gov. William Weld and elevated to chief justice by Republican Gov. Paul Celluci, and two of the three justices who joined in the opinion were Republican appointees.
And then, of course, there's Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Supreme Court's 2003 decision overturning Texas' sodomy laws. Kennedy was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan. Among the five justices who joined in his conclusion in the Texas case were three Republican nominees: John Paul Stevens (Ford), Sandra Day O'Connor (Reagan) and David Souter (Bush I). Without the votes of those Republican appointees, gay men would still risk criminal prosecution for consensual sex in Texas.
In the wake of Kramer's decision in the California case, activists from the religious right are already shouting about "judicial tyranny" again. But before they take to the barricades in the coming war over George W. Bush's judicial nominees, perhaps they should think twice about who the tyrants are.