Monday, March 7, 2016

Hateful writings of Rebecca Bradley deserve serious scrutiny

Where do Bradley's opinions derive from, sound empirical evidence or conservative talking points?

Justice Rebecca Bradley
UPDATE: I've since written another post on this subject with some additional thoughts to offer. Please read this post below, and then the following one by clicking here. Thanks!

Current state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley apparently had some very hateful opinions on gay people, specifically those who had contracted HIV, in the early 1990s. She also targeted vitriolic commentary towards then President-elect Bill Clinton and those that voted for him in the 1992 election.

The sitting justice, who is seeking to retain her seat in a contentious re-election campaign this spring, wrote inciteful and troubling words during her time as an undergrad student at Marquette University.

One Wisconsin Now, a progressive advocacy group, discovered the writings and made them public this week. Director Scot Ross said that they warranted Bradley’s immediate resignation.
“Rebecca Bradley has revealed such a depth of hatred and contempt for people that she cannot be trusted to uphold the most basic tenet of our judicial system, that all are equal before the law,” said Ross. “She denies people their dignity because they are different than her and condemns people that hold political beliefs other than hers.”
The words that Bradley wrote are certainly worth examining, especially for those who are yet unfamiliar with either her or her opponent, Circuit Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. The two are set to square off in Wisconsin’s spring election on April 5, just a few short weeks away.

Here are a few examples of what Bradley wrote:
  • "Heterosexual sex is very healthy in a loving marital relationship. Homosexual sex, however, kills".
  • [Referring to Bill Clinton] "We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ‘60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. ... We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil."
  • [Referring to victims of HIV/AIDS] "How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments."
  • "[T]he homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy."
Bradley apologized on Monday for what she wrote when she was at Marquette. “Those comments are not reflective of my worldview,” she said, adding that they “have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing voters of this state.”

From the Wisconsin State Journal:
[Bradley] said she wrote the columns “as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election and I am frankly embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago."
Bradley took time out of her apology, however, to blast the “blatant mudslinging campaign” that One Wisconsin Now had purportedly made against her.

Mudslinging, it should be noted, refers to “the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent,” according to the Oxford Dictionary.

It is not unjust, in my mind, to question the character of a person running for office based off of the hateful words they wrote twenty years ago, especially someone who will be charged with upholding the law equally and without prejudice. Asking that candidate to clarify or disavow such words is certainly warranted, and I would disagree with Bradley on the point she made of this not being an issue voters would be concerned about.

Bradley has disavowed her commentary from her Marquette days, but it does leave me questioning how she comes to her opinions. Indeed, Bradley is someone who as recently as 2006 (wrongly) believed contraceptives could abort an embryo. She has yet to clarify if she still believes this erroneous piece of information that’s so often peddled by anti-choice organizations across the country.

One has to wonder whether Bradley comes to her beliefs through reading studies, obtaining facts, and scouring empirical evidence, or does she merely tout the conservative line until it’s no longer in her interest to do so politically?

It’s quite telling that it took 24 years for her to disavow these words in the first place. Bradley doesn’t say much about her opinions on issues, and refused in October to divulge her ideas on same-sex marriage, including the ruling that the federal Supreme Court made last year. So there's no telling when her opinion on this topic changed -- ten years ago, ten months ago, or ten minutes ago.

It is my hope that Rebecca Bradley has evolved on gay issues that matter to many Wisconsinites, and has a less negative view on liberals in general, opting to go with research and facts over conservative opinion in her decision making process. But if her recent actions are any indication -- including her leaving the bench in order to court the state’s pro-corporatist business lobby -- it’s clear that she does base her opinions on what is the conservative line of the day.

Bradley should be rejected by the voters of Wisconsin. Her presence on our state’s highest court is dangerous, and could allow for precedents to be set by her political opinion rather than facts and state constitutional law.

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