First lady Michelle Obama told a group of campaign donors over the weekend that having three women on the U.S. Supreme Court is a "beautiful sight" and that the Court's direction will be at stake in the 2012 election.
Her comments came a couple days before the opening of the Court’s latest term, and they are a rare example, so far, of President Barack Obama’s reelection effort trying to build support by highlighting his judicial appointments.
Michelle Obama spoke on Friday night at the Providence, R.I., home of Joseph Paolino Jr., a former mayor of the city. About 220 people were scheduled to attend, and the event was expected to raise more than $300,000 for the president’s re-election campaign.
Obama told those in attendance that “we stand at a fundamental crossroads for our country. You’re here because you know that in just 13 months, we’re going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come.” After addressing issues like health care and the economy, she invoked the appointments of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“And let’s not forget what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court,” she said, according to a White House transcript. After applause, she added, “A beautiful sight.”
Obama, who practiced law as an associate at Sidley Austin in Chicago, emphasized that the appointments will likely have long-lasting and wide-ranging effects. “Let’s not forget,” she said, “the impact that their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come — on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and love whoever we choose. That is what’s at stake in this election.” The audience then applauded again.
In another part of her 23-minute speech, the first lady alluded to the Court a second time. She praised her husband’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which made it easier for pay-discrimination plaintiffs to pursue claims. “Now, he did this because, as he put it, we believe that here in America, there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces,” she said.
The act overrode the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a decision that Democrats denounced while campaigning the following year.
This isn’t the first time Michelle Obama has spoken about diversity on the Court. During an interview last year, after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, she told MSNBC that diversity “is a good thing whether it’s gender or race or socio-economic background or religion.” She also called Sotomayor “one of my favorite justices.”