The Senate voted yesterday to reject the nomination of Andrew McDonald as chief justice for the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The vote of 19-16 nearly fell along party lines with all 18 Senate Republicans voting against McDonald, joined by Democratic Waterbury Senator Joan Hartley.
McDonald would have been the first openly gay chief justice in the nation. The possible homophobia of the Republicans who voted against him came up during a press conference by Gov. Dannel Malloy yesterday.
“I am deeply disappointed and gravely concerned with the antics and shameful charade put on today by Senator Fasano and his caucus,” Malloy said at a press conference after the vote. “Their tortured explanations do not stand up to basic standards of logic. They are in fact, thinly veiled excuses for blocking the appointment of an eminently qualified jurist as Chief Justice of our State Supreme Court.”
Micki McElya, the Director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Connecticut echoed this disappointment.
“This is a sad day for justice in Connecticut, which was overridden by homophobia and gross partisanship.”
McElya said the appointment of an openly gay chief justice would have been a major milestone for the LGBTQ+ community.
“The potential confirmation of an out gay chief justice is undoubtedly important, particularly in the current political environment when the rights and lives of LGBTQ people are at such risk,” McElya said. “Entrusting the leadership of the court to an out gay person broadcasts an important message about inclusion and equality,” McElya said.
McElya said even though there was a lot of emphasis put on McDonald’s sexual orientation during the process leading up to Tuesday’s vote, there are other aspects that play a role in shaping his identity including class, race and gender.
“We must resist easy versions of progress and diversity and instead focus on the complex intersections of identity and privilege,” McElya said. “McDonald’s gender expression and whiteness should be taken into account here as well.”
McElya said while it is possible that McDonald’s leadership would have changed how the court took on and dealt with LGBTQ+ issues, he would have attempted to twist the law to fit a specific political agenda.
“To imply or argue overtly that a gay chief justice will somehow warp rulings or tip them in favor of LGBTQ people in defiance of the law is unfounded and homophobic,” McElya said.
McElya said people should not be excluded from serving in the judicial system because of these prejudiced assumptions.
“There is no hope of achieving a truly just legal system if some people are deemed unfit to serve on the bench or incapable of fairly evaluating the law only because of their sexuality, skin color, immigration history, gender or faith practice,” McElya said. “That would, in fact, destroy the court, not protect it.”
Malloy can potentially nominate another justice next week, the Hartford Courant reported. Malloy has yet to put forward another name, but Republican leader Len Fasano said it could be Justice Richard A. Robinson, who currently serves as an associate justice on the Connecticut State Supreme Court.