Brownback Won't Block Vote on Judge

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By LIBBY QUAID
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 10, 2007; 3:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback grilled a judge who attended a same-sex union ceremony in 2002, but said he would no longer block her nomination.

Brownback, a Kansas senator who opposes gay marriage, last year held up the nomination of Janet T. Neff to be a federal District Court judge in Michigan.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had cleared Neff for the post, but Brownback had questions about her role in the same-sex ceremony, which surfaced because of a wedding announcement in The New York Times.

The senator said in December he would stop blocking her nomination if he could question her and get a roll-call vote on the nomination by the full Senate.

Brownback questioned her during a hearing Thursday. Neff said the ceremony, held in September 2002 in Massachusetts, was for the daughter of close family friends and her partner. Neff said she gave a homily, but did not preside over the service.

"But the ceremony itself, you would classify as what you would call a commitment ceremony?" Brownback asked.

"That is, I think, what it was called at the time," Neff said.

"And was it a marriage ceremony?" Brownback asked.

"It was not," Neff said.

Michigan has a state constitutional ban on gay marriage that prohibits recognition of civil unions or same-sex partnerships.

Asked whether she believes there is a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, Neff said she could not answer, because the matter is pending in state and federal courts.

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© 2007 The Associated Press

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