Anti-gay judge named to Georgia Supreme Court

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An anti-gay judge was promoted to the Georgia Supreme Court and a state senator who backed anti-LGBT legislation was picked for a plum judicial spot on Wednesday.

Gov. Nathan Deal made the appointments as he filled three seats on the Supreme Court and two on the Georgia Court of Appeals. All five appointments take effect on Jan. 1.

Deal elevated Michael Boggs (photo), a current Georgia Court of Appeals judge, to the high court. The promotion comes despite Boggs' lengthy list of anti-LGBT rhetoric as a state lawmaker in which he fought marriage equality and “homosexual Boy Scout leaders.” 

HIs anti-LGBT positions, along with supporting the Confederate flag and abortion restrictions, helped derail Boggs' nomination for a seat on the U.S. District Court in 2014. At the time he tried to back away from his anti-LGBT views but waffled and flopped.

In 2004, Boggs offered this rebuke of gay marriage:

“I tell you that and I submit to you that whether you’re a Democrat or whether you’re a Republican, whether you’re rural, from a rural area, like myself, or whether you represent an urban area, we have opportunities seldom in my short tenure in the legislature to stand up for things that are commonsensical, things that are premised on good conservative Christian values, and in this instance in particular, to support the sanctity of marriage.”

Some additional background on Boggs from Deal's announcement:

Boggs currently serves as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals. He was previously a superior court judge in the Waycross Judicial Circuit. Boggs earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and a law degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He and his wife, Heather, reside in Blackshear.

Deal also appointed Britt Grant, the 38-year-old solicitor general in the state Attorney General's office, and Nels Peterson, 38, a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Grant has worked in a state Attorney General's that defended the state's ban on gay marriage and sued the federal government over guidelines concerning transgender students. Earlier this month, Deal moved former Attorney General Sam Olens to Kennesaw State University and installed him as the school's new president. It was a controversial selection.

Deal's appointees to the Georgia Court of Appeals include state Sen. Charlie Bethel and Tillman Self, the chief judge of the Superior Court in Macon.

Bethel, a 40-year-old Republican from Dalton, has voted for anti-gay legislation as a state lawmaker. In March, Bethel voted for a sweeping anti-gay “religious freedom” bill that was later vetoed by Deal. In 2015, Bethel also voted for the anti-LGBT “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that later stalled in the House.

Additional background on Bethel from Deal's announcement:

Bethel is the owner of Bethel Resolutions, a dispute resolution service. He currently serves as a state senator for the 54th District in the Georgia General Assembly. Bethel earned a bachelor’s degree from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. He and his wife, Lynsey, have three children and reside in Dalton.

Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, who is retiring, praised Deal's appointments to the state's high court:

I congratulate and welcome our three new justices to the highest court of the state – the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Governor Deal has made excellent choices in appointing Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Solicitor General Britt Grant of the Georgia Attorney General’s office, and Judge Nels Peterson, also of the Court of Appeals. All three are experienced public servants who are committed to the people of Georgia and to impartially upholding the laws and Constitution of this state.

We here at the Supreme Court are ready for them. Their offices are complete and we are in the process of adding their names to the wheel from which we randomly assign cases. They will be able to hit the ground running when they join us in January. We look forward to having them.

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