LGBT cases before 11th Circuit draw majority liberal panel of judges

by on November 28, 2011  •  In Employment law, Judiciary, Religion, Transgender

Judges Rosemary Barkett, Phyllis Kravitch, and William Pryor will decide two lgbt-related cases to be argued this week before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Barkett and Kravitch (who is on senior status) are two of the liberal members of what is usually a conservative circuit; they were appointed by Presidents Clinton and Carter, respectively. Pryor, considered to be a strong conservative, was appointed by President George W. Bush.

On Thursday, they will hear arguments by the Georgia legislature that its firing of a transgender employee did not constitute sex discrimination. This will follow tomorrow's appeal by a self-proclaimed Christian who was ordered by Augusta State University either to provide non-judgmental counseling to gay clients or participate in a remediation plan. Lambda Legal attorney Greg Nevins (photo) will seek affirmance Imgresof the lower court decision in Glenn v. Brumby, the trans case, which granted judgment for the plaintiff. In the other case, the former ASU graduate student is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, which makes regular appearances on the opposite side of lgbt rights advocates.

The panel before whom they will argue presents a study in contrasts.

Judge Barkett is well known for her spirited arguments in dissent in both the panel decision and the denial of an en banc rehearing in Lofton v. Department of Children's Services, a challenge to the Florida law that prohibited adoption by lesbians and gay men. Barkett argued that the anti-gay adoption rule was unconstitutional if one followed the Supreme Court's decisions in Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans. (Florida has since abandoned its defense of the law.)

Judge Kravitch was a trailblazer for women in the judiciary. Only the third woman ever appointed to a U.S. Court of Appeals, she received the ABA's Margaret Brent Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award and an award for service to the profession from her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She began her career by joining her father's practice in Savannah, when no major firms would hire a woman. She later litigated important local civil rights cases.

Judge Pryor became Attorney General of Alabama in 1997 and served until he joined the 11th Circuit. Although nominated in 2003, Senate Democrats filibustered his appointment until President George W. Bush gave him a recess appointment in 2004. The Senate confirmed him the following year as part of a compromise on judicial appointments reached by the "Gang of 14." During his confirmation hearing, he reaffirmed his belief that Roe v. Wade was "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." 

Although these three judges will announce the first decision in the two cases, it might not be the last. A decision from the panel in any U.S. Court of Appeals case may be rescinded if the full Circuit grants a rehearing en banc.  The case is then re-argued before all the judges who are members of that Circuit.


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