Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Senate Ok's Judge Who Attended Gay Union

Senate OKs Judge Who Attended Gay Union

Tuesday July 10, 2007 12:31 AM


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate on Monday confirmed the nomination of a Michigan judge who attended a same-sex union ceremony in 2002 and drew concern from Sen. Sam Brownback about her views on gay marriage.

Brownback, R-Kan., a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, was one of four senators who voted against the confirmation of Janet T. Neff to be a federal District Court judge in western Michigan. Her nomination was approved by a vote of 83-4.

Last year Brownback questioned Neff's views of gay marriage after learning about her role in the same-sex ceremony, which surfaced because of a wedding announcement in The New York Times. He blocked her nomination but then agreed to allow it to come up for a vote after he met with her privately and she appeared for a Senate hearing.

Neff, a Michigan Court of Appeals judge, said during the hearing in May that the Massachusetts ceremony was for the daughter of close family friends and her partner. Neff said she gave a homily but did not preside over the service.

Brownback said Monday that Neff's responses to his questions about gay marriage suggested that she did not consider it to be settled by voters and the state legislature. Michigan has a constitutional ban on gay marriage that prohibits recognition of civil unions or same-sex partnerships.

``I think she has an activist view on this issue,'' Brownback said in remarks on the Senate floor. ``The fact that Judge Neff feels the court has to weigh in before this issue is settled suggests a misunderstanding of the role of the judiciary.''

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a supporter of Neff's nomination, noted the ceremony was private and ``had no legal effect.'' Neff, he said, ``felt that it was like being asked by one of her own daughters to be part of an important event in her life.''

Neff said during the Senate hearing in May that she could apply the law without regard to her personal views.

``I recognize that I have to part with my personal views, whatever they are, at the door of the courthouse before I walk in,'' she said.

A phone message seeking comment was left Monday at Neff's office after business hours.

The others who voted against her confirmation were Sens. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Mel Martinez of Florida, all Republicans.

The Senate unanimously approved the nominations of two other Michigan judges, Grand Rapids attorney Robert Jonker and Berrien County Circuit Judge Paul Maloney, to serve on the U.S. District Court for Michigan's Western District. The court's caseload has grown significantly in the past year because of the vacancies.

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