U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn was not the only federal official to skip President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address Tuesday.
As cameras scanned the audience assembled in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was hard to miss the fact that only five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices were present — Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Though Justice Sonia Sotomayor — one of Obama’s appointees — was likely on her way to Guam, where she’s scheduled to speak at an upcoming judicial conference, conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were conspicuously absent.
That’s a historically low number of Supreme Court justices at a State of the Union address; only six attended last year. After Obama used his 2010 address to publicly criticize the Court for a ruling on a campaign-finance case, and with protocol demanding that the justices sit through the chastising impassively, Alito said he was unlikely to attend again — and has stayed away ever since.
Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, said Monday he’d be boycotting the speech to protest Obama’s policies; he also dismissed the president as being “in full campaign mode.”
Tom McClusky, vice president of Family Research Council Action, said he was less concerned by who wasn’t there than who was. Sitting in places of honor next to the First Lady were two lesbians, one of whom was there to represent the administration’s victory in overturning the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy last year. The decision has led to an all-out assault on the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“He was trying to play it both ways,” McClusky said. “The majority of the country is not with him on these issues, but he needs them to get re-elected, but he also needs the gay people in his base.”
For their part, gay bloggers were also displeased by the speech — saying Obama mentioned their community only once, and did not declare support for same-sex marriage, specifically mention Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or call on Congress to pass a federal law creating special protections for gay people in the workplace — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
McClusky said the Republicans’ rebuttal, given by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, missed a huge opportunity to point out how Obama’s policies discriminate against people of faith.
“He was talking about regulations and all, and not surprisingly failed to mention how a lot of his regulations are hurting not only businesses, but churches — like the conscience mandate in ObamaCare, forcing [religiously affiliated institutions] to either get out of business or violate their faith,” he said. “The Obama administration has been anti-religious since he’s taken over, and it’s really heated up lately.”
Overall, Obama’s speech drew 9.5 million television viewers nationwide — less than a re-run of last week’s episode of “American Idol.”
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