Sen. Brownback May Lift Hold on Nominee

The Associated Press
Friday, December 8, 2006; 10:06 PM

WASHINGTON -- Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a potential presidential candidate, said Friday he would lift his hold on a federal judicial nominee if she agrees to step aside from any case dealing with same-sex unions.

Brownback, a Republican raising money for a possible White House bid, has stalled the confirmation of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet Neff to the federal bench because she once attended a lesbian commitment ceremony.

Neff has said she attended the ceremony as a friend of one of the two women, a longtime neighbor. She insisted in an Oct. 12 letter to Brownback that the ceremony had no legal effect and would not affect her ability to act fairly as a federal judge.

Brownback, a prominent gay marriage opponent, says he is concerned the incident colors her legal view on the constitutionality of allowing same-sex marriages.

Neff has declined any public comment about her nomination.

Under Senate rules, a single senator can block a vote on a nomination by placing a hold on it.

President Bush nominated Neff and two others to fill three vacancies in Michigan as part of a compromise with Democrats. Neff has a liberal reputation, while the other two nominees are considered conservatives.

Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, who support Neff, have placed holds on the other two nominees because of Brownback's actions.

A spokesman for Levin did not immediately return a phone call late Friday seeking comment.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved all three candidates earlier this year and their nominations are pending before the full Senate.

© 2006 The Associated Press