GOP lawmaker won’t advance juror non-discrimination bill

Posted on: June 6th, 2012 by Andy Birkey 2 Comments

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee doesn’t plan to give a hearing to a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal jury service, his spokesperson said this week.

The bill was introduced last month by New Jersey Democrat Steve Rothman following an investigation by The American Independent documenting instances where jurors may have been removed from state and federal trials because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Federal courts have consistently declined to prohibit attorneys from openly discriminating against LGBT people during jury selection. And as recently as last year, the U.S. Department of Justice told a panel of judges that it “takes no position” on whether the Supreme Court rulings that prohibit attorneys from removing jurors based on race or sex should be extended to cover sexual orientation.

Rothman’s legislation would “prohibit the exclusion of individuals from service on a federal jury on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A spokesperson for Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee — where the bill currently awaits a hearing — said that Smith has “no plans to move the bill at this time.”

Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican from North Carolina, is the chair of the subcommittee where the bill would first be heard. Asked whether Coble supported the legislation, his spokesman told TAI that he will “reserve his judgment” on the bill until it gets a hearing. His office referred questions about a possible hearing to Smith’s office.

The office of Rep. Mike Ross, an Arkansas Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said he has no position on the bill and did not anticipate that it would get a hearing.

Still, the bill has picked up two co-sponsors in the House: Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from California, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from the District of Columbia.

Rothman, the bill’s author, didn’t return a request for comment. On Tuesday, he lost a primary election against fellow incumbent Democrat Bill Pascrell. In his concession speech, Rothman announced he would retire from politics at the end of his term.

Photo: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears in Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) for the 112th Congress. lamarsmith.house.gov

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