Georgia LGBT groups urge GOP senators to vote against Michael Boggs’ nomination to federal bench

Two Georgia LGBT advocacy groups are writing a letter to U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss urging them to reconsider voting in favor of approving Michael Boggs’ appointment to the federal bench.

HRC Atlanta and Georgia Equality sent a letter to the Georgia senators Wednesday stating Boggs they are troubled by Boggs’ past stances on issues such as same-sex marriage. Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday he would not support Boggs’ nomination.

“It is our strong belief that this appointment would undermine the progress of the LGBT community in Georgia and across the country,” said Molly Simmons, Atlanta Member of HRC’s Board of Directors, in a prepared statement. “All Georgians deserve judicial officials who will treat them equally under the law and we urge Senators Isakson and Chambliss to reconsider this judicial nomination.”

Boggs is a Georgia Court of Appeals Judge who has been nominated by President Obama to serve on the federal district court in northern district of Georgia. He has been on the bench for a decade, but it is his time in the Georgia House of Representatives that has several progressive organizations, including LGBT organizations, upset with President Obama’s pick.

During Boggs’ two terms in the General Assembly, from 2001 to 2004, Boggs voted in favor of keeping the Confederate flag emblem as part of the state flag and and publicly naming doctors who provide abortions. He also introduced a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state.

Boggs also argued while serving in the Georgia legislature against “activist judges” that he believed were working to bring marriage equality to same-sex couples.

Boggs, who is from Waycross in south Georgia, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and said he regretted his decision to vote in favor of legislation to keep the Confederate flag insignia on the state flag as well as publicly naming doctors who provide abortions. He would only say that he may or may not have changed his mind on same-sex marriage.

The letter from HRC Atlanta and Georgia Equality states, in part, “Judge Boggs’ clear statements against LGBT Georgians, as well as other anti-equality actions including his vote to maintain the Confederate battle emblem on the Georgia State flag, undermine the strength of his nomination and call into question his ability to fairly administer justice on the federal bench.”

The letter also quoted statements made by Boggs from the floor of the state House of Representatives against same-sex marriage. From the letter:

As a member of the Georgia legislature, Judge Boggs was an outspoken proponent of the constitutional ban prohibiting same-sex marriage and recognition of all out of state unions including civil unions and domestic partnerships. In a floor speech supporting the measure, Boggs introduced the ban for consideration in a floor vote stating:

It’s my opinion, both as a Christian, as a lawyer and as a member of this House, that it’s our opportunity to stand up in support of this resolution [to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage].

I think it’s important to recognize the dangers that we face with respect to activist judges, with respect to mayors who are operating in derogation of current state law . . . .

I submit to you that proposing a constitutional amendment that, in fact, mirrors the language, for the most part, that is … codified in Georgia’s Defense of Marriage Act will give us an additional safeguard . . . . It will, in fact, prohibit state constitutional challenges to the proposition … that is outlined in Georgia law already . . . .

I submit to you that whether you’re a Democrat or whether you’re a Republican, whether you’re rural from a rural area, like myself, or whether you represent an urban area, we have opportunities seldom [seen] in my short tenure in the legislature to stand up for things that are commonsensical; things that are premised on good conservative Christian values, and, in this instance in particular, to support the sanctity of marriage. I’m going to ask all of you like me to support this proposition.”

“In an era where it is difficult to have our political leadership address our concerns, despite the fact that public opinion has shifted dramatically in support of a wide range of LGBT issues, it is critical that the federal judiciary be free of animus directed at our community,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, in a statement. “Through both his words and his actions, he has demonstrated that he has no concern for the well-being of the hundreds of thousands of LGBT families and individuals living in Georgia.”

Boggs was nominated as part of a brokered deal between the White House and Sens. Isakson and Chambliss to keep them from blocking President Obama’s other picks to fill empty federal judicial seats in Georgia.

Read the full letter below: