WASHINGTON — Georgia state Judge Michael Boggs, whom President Obama hopes to elevate to the federal bench, railed against “activist judges” intent on expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples in a speech on the floor of the Georgia legislature in 2004.
“I think it’s important to recognize the dangers that we face with respect to activist judges,” Boggs, then a Democratic state legislator, said in the speech supporting an amendment to the Georgia constitution banning marriage equality. Boggs said the amendment would give Georgia “an additional safe card” to guard against marriage equality in the years after the state passed a defense of marriage act.
Boggs warned that a vote against a bill allowing for a referendum on the state constitutional amendment would endanger biblical values.
“I tell you that and 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 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,” Boggs said. “I’m going to ask all of you, like me, to support this proposition.”
The Obama administration has defended the Boggs pick in the past. A White House aide told BuzzFeed in February that critics of the nomination ignore that Boggs has “proven that he can set aside personal views and follow the law” during his 10 years on the Georgia state bench. BuzzFeed was unable to contact anyone at the Georgia state appeals court for comment Sunday.
The White House has been under fire from progressives over the Boggs nomination in recent weeks, with usual allies in the women’s rights, LGBT rights, and African-American communities condemning the president for the selection.
Boggs tenure in the Georgia legislature has fueled most of the criticisms. While a state lawmaker, Boggs publicly supported abortion restrictions and the Confederate flag. He opposed legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. The 2004 video shows he also opposed the kind of judicial action expanding marriage rights that has been a hallmark of Obama’s time in office.
The Obama administration has mounted a strong defense of Boggs, who was nominated as part of a deal with Georgia’s Republican senators to prevent them from blocking the president from filling empty slots on the Georgia federal district court.
In February, White House counsel Kathy Reummler dismissed Boggs’ critics in an interview with the Huffington Post.
“Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant?” she said. “We believe it would be grossly irresponsible for the president to leave these seats vacant.”
Boggs’ nomination goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, setting up a battle between the president and powerful figures in his base in a Democratically-controlled committee chamber. So far, few Democratic members of the committee beyond Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal have commented on the progressive criticisms of Boggs. Blumenthal told BuzzFeed in March he thought there were “legitimate and important questions” about Boggs’ record.
Read the transcript of Boggs’ 2004 remarks:
Thank you Mr. Speaker. Ladies and gentleman of the House, many of you, like me, earlier today were wondering if we would have an opportunity to vote on Senate Resolution 595.
I want tell you that uh, that obviously it is a simple proposition, albeit one that is not without controversy and I understand that and can respect differing opinions.
But I want to stand before you today and tell you that it’s my opinion that, both as a Christian and as a lawyer and as a member of this House, that it’s our opportunity to stand up in support of this resolution. 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.
Many folks have asked, well why do we need this particular proposed constitutional amendment in light of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is codified in 19-3-3.1? Many of you know that in 1998, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down Georgia’s sodomy laws and I found it interesting that the lone dissent in that case by Justice Carley, speaking with respect to the state regulating the private sexual conduct of consenting adults, that Justice Carley indicated that quote, “Just because, that because, this right is not in the context, or in the text of the Constitution, its boundaries are necessarily unclear.”
Other states have similar prohibitions against same-sex marriages. In Hawaii, for example, um, the state Supreme Court has struck down a statute similar to that that is codified in Georgia law. Same has been done in Alaska.
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 safe card. It will, in fact, prohibit state constitutional challenges to the proposition that is outlined in Georgia law already. That’s important, it will not affect federal challenges, but it will affect state challenges.
I tell you that and 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 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 gonna ask all of you, like me, to support this proposition and I ask for your favorable consideration.