Yesterday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) announced his presidential campaign’s “Justice Advisory Committee,” along with its co-chair Robert Bork.
The Senate rejected Bork’s 1987 Supreme Court nomination in a bipartisan 58-42 vote, but Bork has since emerged as the slain martyr at the center of the conservative legal movement’s creation myth. In this sense, Bork’s involvement is a coup for a campaign that is struggling to prove Romney’s hard right credentials in the face of his decision to ensure that all people in his state enjoy access to affordable health care.
For the majority of Americans who are uninterested in hard right governance, however, Bork’s record raises very serious questions about whether someone who would take legal advice from him has any business appointing judges and Supreme Court Justices:
- Opposition To Civil Rights: One year before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned whites-only lunch counters and other forms of discrimination, Bork criticized the Act as a moral abomination. “The principle of such legislation is that if I find your behavior ugly by my standards, moral or aesthetic, and if you prove stubborn about adopting my view of the situation, I am justified in having the state coerce you into more righteous paths. That is itself a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”
- No Right To Contraception: In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court held that married couples have a constitutional right to use contraception — a decision that was later extended to all couples. Bork called this decision “utterly specious” and a “time bomb.”
- Banning Porn, Art and Science : Bork also called for shrinking the size of the First Amendment until it is small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. “Constitutional protection should be accorded only to speech that is explicitly political. There is no basis for judicial intervention to protect any other form of expression, be it scientific, literary or that variety of expression we call obscene or pornographic.”
- Believes Government Can Criminalize Sex: In its landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, the Supreme Court reached the obvious conclusion that it is none of the government’s damn business who anyone is having sex with — overruling a previous decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. Bork, however, wrote that “Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld the community’s right to prohibit homosexual conduct, may be a sign that the Court is recovering its balance . . . . I am dubious about making homosexual conduct criminal, but I favor even less imposing rules upon the American people that have no basis other than the judge’s morality.”
- No Constitutional Protection for Women: Bork also claimed that the Constitution does not shield women from gender discrimination. In Bork’s words, “I do think the equal protection clause probably should be kept to things like race and ethnicity.”
Four of the Supreme Court’s current members are over age 70. One of these justices is a cancer survivor. So whoever takes the oath of office in 2013 could have the opportunity to fill several of these seats. Now that Romney has selected Bork as one of his chief judicial advisers, the American people have a right to know whether Romney shares any of Bork’s previously expressed positions on civil rights, the rights of women, and how far government may intrude into our bedrooms, classrooms, art galleries and laboratories.