Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) says Connecticut Republican senators who joined together to block Andrew McDonald – a gay, progressive state Supreme Court Justice – from his ascent to the post of chief justice are “homophobic.”
“I personally would not vote for anyone who voted against Justice McDonald,” Malloy said, reports the CT Mirror. “And I think anyone who has a gay friend, or child, or relative, should think twice about supporting anyone who voted against Justice McDonald.”
In a historic move, state Republican senators voted as a bloc Tuesday, rejecting McDonald’s nomination. One Democrat – state Sen. Joan Hartley – voted with Republicans. Another Democrat – state Sen. Gayle Slossberg – recused herself because of acrimonious personal battles with McDonald that ultimately became public during the associate justice’s confirmation hearing.
The final vote against McDonald’s nomination was 19-16 in a senate that is evenly divided.
The state House approved McDonald’s confirmation by a vote of 75 to 74, with one Republican approving his nomination and five Democrats opposing it.
“To everyone I tried to help, and to everyone who tried to help me, I am sorry I failed in this endeavor,” McDonald said following the vote, adding:
And to the LGBT community, particularly its youth who I know have been closely watching this process, I want you to understand that every minority group in history has faced setbacks. In the fullness of time, those setbacks usually end up becoming a source of strength, a reminder of why the community must continue to press for equality, and a framework that helps shape and develop the next steps of progress.
McDonald once served as Malloy’s attorney, and the governor performed the marriage ceremony between McDonald and Charles Gray.
Malloy nominated McDonald to the state’s high court in 2013. When he recently nominated him to the post of chief justice, the governor acknowledged his longstanding friendship with McDonald, describing him as someone who “has proven himself to be a consummate, revered jurist who has an exceptional ability to understand, analyze, research, and evaluate legal issues.”
McDonald’s participation in a case that struck down the death penalty in the state proved to be a primary reason for his rejection by Republicans.
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut explained:
As Gov. Malloy’s attorney, McDonald had advised the governor to sign into law a repeal of the death penalty on the cockamamie theory that it would somehow not apply to those already on death row. Once on the bench, McDonald ruled the exact opposite of what he had advised the governor, abolishing the death penalty altogether and letting the men who tortured and murdered Dr. Petit’s family in Cheshire off death row.
In a nationally publicized case, Dr. William Petit’s wife and daughters were raped and murdered during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut, in 2007.
Sen. Joan Hartley, a centrist Democrat, said she is voting her conscious and hopes other senators do as well. She said that while McDonald did not have to recuse himself from State v. Santiago he should’ve and it would’ve avoided much of today’s debate, she said. pic.twitter.com/T6ktL5u0CP
— Sandra Gomez-Aceves (@SanGomez_News) March 27, 2018
As the Hartford Courant notes, Democrat Hartley is a strong supporter of the death penalty and said McDonald should have recused himself from the case.
In another situation, in 2009, McDonald – then a state senator from Stamford – introduced SB 1098, a bill that would have denied Connecticut’s Catholic bishops and priests financial authority over their parishes.
Former Gov. Jodi Rell (R) said the “proposal was blatantly unconstitutional, insensitive and inappropriate,” reported the Catholic Transcript, the publication of the Archdiocese of Hartford, as Catholics across the state rallied against the measure.
“Those who proposed this bill have embarrassed themselves and the State of Connecticut,” said then-Archbishop Henry Mansell, pointing out the hypocrisy that a state with a $1 billion deficit would presume to direct the Church in how to operate its finances.
Malloy and fellow Democrats, however, insisted McDonald’s rejection was due to homophobia.
“It’s an undeniable fact that Andrew McDonald has been treated differently than others that came before him,” Malloy said, according to the Courant. “A person does not need to use homophobic slurs in order for their actions to be homophobic. … I am sorry he had to go through this. … I feel bad for my state.”
“Let there be no doubt that Andrew was treated differently than any other person nominated and quite frankly the only difference is that he was openly gay,” Malloy said.
Republicans, however, expressed their concerns that McDonald is a partisan, progressive, judicial activist who rules according to his own personal views and not the law. In addition, most Republicans had voted for him when Malloy nominated him for associate justice five years ago.
Democrats, nevertheless, said they will use the GOP senators’ votes against McDonald as an election issue. They claimed Republicans will pay the political consequences that will come from voting against the gay justice.
Wolfgang – whose pro-family organization fought against same-sex marriage in the state – said McDonald and his supporters are simply “playing the gay card,” since Connecticut Republicans were never concerned about judicial activism ten years ago when the state Supreme Court re-defined marriage.
“[T]he CT GOP took little interest in judicial activism until the Court issued its full repeal of the death penalty,” he observed.
It was McDonald, however, who mentioned his gay status when Malloy nominated him, referring to his marriage to Gray and the meaning of same-sex marriage rulings to his own personal life.
“When I was born here in Connecticut a little more than 50 years ago, loving relationships like the one Charles and I cherish were criminal in 49 states including Connecticut,” McDonald said, according to the Associated Press.
When I came out in the early 1990s, I had family members who loved me deeply but still counseled me against pursuing either a career in law or in public service because of the deeply ingrained prejudices held by some people at that time. But now, because of changes brought about by evolving understanding of people, new statutes passed by legislators and important court cases — indeed by the rule of law — this day was made possible.
Wolfgang said the vote against McDonald’s nomination is very significant for the state.
“For the first time in recent memory, anti-family politicians and activists played a hand that failed them,” he asserted. “The Republicans and a few Democrats were having none of it. They would not be bullied, they would not be intimidated. There were just too many legitimate reasons to oppose Justice McDonald to give in to the usual identity politics circus.”