Sotomayor's Proud Moment for Feminism

By Sara K. Smith
|  Monday, Jun 22, 2009  |  Updated 7:40 PM PDT
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Obama's Supreme Choice: Sonia Sotomayor

BuzzFoto/FilmMagic

Now every little girl in American can dream of a day when she becomes so successful that she can start turning down exclusive club memberships.

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Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court presents us with a compelling story of the American dream. A child of immigrants who spent her youth in a public housing project, she went on to phenomenal success in the nation's best schools and now stands on the brink of achieving the very highest rank in her profession.

Who thought the story could get any better than that? But it did, because she has now attained the great distinction of not only joining one of the most exclusive clubs in the world -- the Belizean Grove -- but of then having to renounce membership in that club so that she could weather the Supreme Court nomination process more comfortably. How many people in America can lay claim, first, to membership in such a high-flying and exclusive group, and then, second, to spurning such a group in favor of an even fancier group?

The Belizean Grove is a collection of 115 or so of the world's most powerful women. They meet periodically in the U.S., Belize and other exotic Central American locales to talk about ... well, who knows! An exclusive ladies' club does not reveal its secrets!

The only problem with this organization is that it has no male members, which could give Republican Senators something to carp about during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. And so Sotomayor, despite the fact that she didn't believe the Belizean Grove practiced "invidious discrimination" on the basis of gender, decided to renounce her membership.

In a letter to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the federal appeals court judge said she is convinced that the club does not practice "invidious discrimination" and that her membership in it did not violate judicial ethics.
But she said she didn't want questions about it to "distract anyone from my qualifications and record."

Never has there been a prouder moment for feminism than when Judge Sotomayor gave up her membership in this women's-only club so that she could join what is very nearly a men's-only club (the Supreme Court is currently just 11 percent female) after being vetted by another almost men's-only club (the Senate is currently 17 percent female). 

Legal journalist Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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