08/04/2005 11:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How To Spin This: John Roberts, Gay Rights Champion?

What a challenge for the spinners on the left and right!

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts donated his legal services, when he was a corporate attorney, to gay rights activists challenging a voter-approved Colorado initiative that permitted employers and landlords to discriminate against gays and lesbians. The gay rights side, with Roberts behind-the-scenes assistance, won the landmark case, which was decided on a 6 to 3 vote in 1996. (William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, of course, dissented.) Gay rights activists consider the case one of their most significant legal victories. As the newspaper notes,

Suzanne B. Goldberg, a staff lawyer for New York-based Lambda, a legal services group for gays and lesbians, called it the "single most important positive ruling in the history of the gay rights movement."

So what are all the Supreme Court brawlers going to say about this? Will progressive groups, which have been trying to find an angle for attacking Roberts, acknowledge that Roberts may not be as bad as the three dissenters in that case? Will the right forgive Roberts and offer the excuse that he was just working for a client not expressing his own personal view? One small social conservative outfit--Public Advocate--has already called on Roberts to "correct the record or withdraw" as the nominee. But I wonder if the more significant social conservative organizations will swallow hard and stick with Bush's man. If they do, that ought to be fun to watch.
By the way, if you're obsessing about the Karl Rove leak scandal, please check out my own obsessions about this story at