Ray Charles could have seen this coming. The Black gay Republican mayor nominated by Gov. Chris Christie to the New Jersey Supreme Court will likely not be confirmed, reports the Star-Ledger. Bruce Harris is not expected to clear today's hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee.
As previously reported, the Democratic-controlled committee is concerned about his lack of litigation experience and willingness to recuse himself from cases involving marriage equality and gay rights.
Harris, a graduate of Yale Law School, is a transactional attorney at the international law firm Greenberg Traurig. In a questionnaire he prepared for the committee, Harris said he had closed more than $8 billion in deals, including transactions involving the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. ... The sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said Harris’ lack of courtroom experience was indeed a sticking point for committee’s eight Democrats.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said he remained opposed to the nomination because Harris has said that if approved, he would recuse himself from cases involving gay rights. Christie has said Harris planned to recuse himself because in the past he had advocated for gay rights.
Lesniak and other critics said a blanket recusal was unnecessary, and that most likely was a concession to Christie, who opposes same-sex marriage. A lawsuit brought by seven gay couples seeking the right to marry is pending in a lower court and is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court in a couple years.
Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough in November 2011. At that time, he became the nation's only openly gay Black Republican mayor. If confirmed, Harris would become the state's first openly LGBT justice and the nation's first openly gay Black state supreme court justice.
Harris has already promised to recuse himself from any marriage equality case. That premature promise has underwhelmed critics, including key Democratic legislative leaders who are already unimpressed with Harris' credentials.
An openly gay judge is no more required to recuse himself from gay rights cases than Clarence Thomas is required to recuse himself from race cases because he is black or Ruth Bader Ginsburg is required to recuse herself from gender discrimination cases because she is a woman. If Harris becomes a judge on the back of a promise to remove himself from gay issues because he is gay, he will set a dangerous precedent that anti-gay groups will cite every time another LGBT judicial nominee is named.
Harris' appointment comes almost two years after the Republican governor infuriated Democrats and minorities by replacing the court's only Black justice with a white Republican. Harris would replace veteran Black Democratic Justice John Wallace, who supported LGBT rights and marriage equality.
Christie vetoed New Jersey's marriage equality legislation on February 17. Democratic legislative leaders have vowed to override the veto by January 2014.
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