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Souter's bachelorhood sparked debate in '90

By Garance Franke-Ruta
The widespread speculation about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's private life may be unusual, but the last never-married justice did not escape the nomination process without at least some of the same treatment, a review of news articles surrounding David Souter's summer 1990 nomination shows.

Time Magazine's Margaret Carlson noted in August 1990 that after being nominated, Souter "had barely left the podium in the press room of the White House before Republican Party officials were raising 'the 50-year-old bachelor thing,' which was widely interpreted as a way of introducing speculation that Souter is homosexual."

She dismissed that speculation with reference to girlfriends he'd had in law school and as a superior court judge, even interviewing one on what it was like to date him, and wrote that the more significant question was whether "a man who seems to prefer books to people can empathize with and understand the problems of ordinary people."

A July 1990 Miami Herald editorial speculated that Souter's bachelorhood could impact his ruling on laws governing extra-marital sex. "Judge Souter's private life as a 50-year-old lifelong bachelor will be scrutinized," the paper correctly predicted, though for a reason unlikely to come up this year: "Because the Court hears challenges to state laws that curtail sex outside of marriage, he will be pressed to explain his views on that power of the state to govern intimate behavior conducted privately."

Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) addressed the speculation about the nominee in his opening remarks at Souter's confirmation hearing in about as direct a way as anyone. "Some of the panting and hand-wringing special interest groups are very disturbed about your quiet lifestyle - the fact that according to media reports, you spend some of your time with the law, music, books and nature. Good heavens! Some even seem to be concerned that he is a bachelor. And it is even clumsily and desperately suggested that he is somehow, quote, out of touch, unquote, and not in the mainstream, unquote, of humanity," he said, according to a transcript.

"Are we saying that a priest who took the vows of celibacy was not able to counsel the estranged and anguished wife or husband? Or comfort the tormented child because he or she had none? That logic surely diminishes and denigrates the doctrine and process and practice of several of the world's significant religious orders," Simpson added to his defense of the justice to be.

As is typical in Washington, Souter's bachelorhood later landed him on the hot catch lists.

"David Souter is not your standard hunka hunka burning love. News that the 51-year-old judge had never married set off a flurry of speculation that the Supreme Court might be getting its first gay justice," wrote Roxanne Roberts in The Washington Post in early Oct. 1990. "When reporters unearthed three former girlfriends, it appeared instead that he is simply a scholarly workaholic too busy for romance. Okay, so he's no Tom Cruise. No matter. He's a bachelor; more important, now he's a confirmed one. That makes him a hot ticket, the catch of the day, a Power Date. In short, Washington's idea of Extremely Eligible."

A month after his confirmation, Souter reflected on the experience. "When someone who has lived as privately as I have is suddenly subjected to the kind of scrutiny that's getting quotations from old girlfriends and so on of 20 years ago, you really do wonder how relevant that is to the issues of the day," the then 51-year-old bachelor told the Boston Globe.

He and Kagan might one day have a lot to talk about.

By Garance Franke-Ruta  |  May 13, 2010; 7:28 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Culture Wars , Supreme Court  
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So if gay judges can't make a decision on gay marriage, does that mean straight judges shouldn't be allowed to make any rulings on heterosexual topics?

So let's see, no heterosexual judges should rule on divorce court proceedings or child custody cases when the parents are heterosexual etc. etc.

I don't really care about the sex life of my judges. Given that most of them are men, the odds are pretty good that some large subset are cheating adulterers. Actually, they are likely cheating church-going adulterers, since most folks go to church. I do not.

Do I want to hear about their sex lives/religions/personal lives? No.

It's not relevant to the law, and it's not relevant to their job.

I don't understand why anyone cares about these things. Spend your time in better ways, and worry about your own behavior.

Posted by: savis_mom | May 15, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

Re Kagan's "private life": Wasn't Clarence Thomas rather closely scrutinized by the Dems? And didn't they turn Bork into a verb? The GOP has more class.

Posted by: guthriej | May 14, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Re: post by lynnecatlover.

I every person was white and male, where would babies come from? Cloning?

Posted by: janye1 | May 14, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Gee williby sounds like you are the sicko. God made black3,white, brown, yellow , male female, bisexual and transgendered. Can you imagine how boring it would be if everyone was white,male and conservative ?????

Posted by: lynnecatlover | May 14, 2010 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Every time you turn around there's a "new" gay or lesbian judge on the court(s). We got this gay judge in California, deciding if Gay Marriage is Legal. "The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself [a] gay [sicko]."

Posted by: williby | May 13, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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