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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - William Pryor, in urging the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 to uphold a Texas law banning gay sex, argued against the notion that the U.S. Constitution should safeguard a person’s choice of partners.
Pryor, who then was Alabama’s attorney general and now serves on a federal appeals court, was one of 11 conservative jurists who presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has named as people he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court, if elected.
“A constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect sexually’ must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia,” Pryor said in a legal filing to the Supreme Court.
Pryor has a record of provocative remarks, as do some others on Trump’s list. But many have established solid conservative judicial records that likely would appeal to Republicans in the Senate, which has the power to confirm Supreme Court nominees, and have steered clear of inflammatory rhetoric.
Trump’s list, unveiled on Wednesday, included judges who have indicated support for various conservative causes, range in age from 41 to 58 and hail primarily from conservative and Republican-governed states. The eight men and three women all are white.
The list’s release seems to have reassured some conservatives who may have doubted Trump would name a genuine conservative to the high court, which has a vacancy following the February death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive about this. People in the Senate say this is going to relieve a lot of people,” said Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a key Trump supporter in the Senate.
The Republican-led Senate has refused to consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing the winner of the Nov. 8 election to determine Obama’s successor should get to fill the post. Scalia’s replacement could tip the ideological balance of the court, now evenly divided with four conservative justices and four liberals.
Don Willett of Texas is one of five state supreme court judges on the list. His job is an elected one.
“Don Willett helped defend the right of Texas to display the (Bible’s) Ten Commandments and fought the liberals who tried to remove the words ‘under God’ from our pledge” of allegiance, his campaign said in a 2012 advertisement.
Before becoming a judge, Willett was part of Texas’ legal team that won a Supreme Court battle to display the Ten Commandments on a monument in the state Capitol despite opponents’ concerns that it amounted to government endorsement of a religion.
During Pryor’s stint as Alabama attorney general from 1997 to 2004, he described the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion nationwide as “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
Some of the judges on Trump’s list have ruled against abortion and birth control rights.
Federal appeals court judges Diane Sykes, Steven Colloton and Pryor all ruled in favor of Christian objections to the mandate under Obama’s healthcare law that health insurance covers birth control for women.
Federal appeals court judge Raymond Gruender wrote a 2012 ruling upholding a South Dakota law that requires doctors to inform patients that women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide. Colloton, who sits on the same court, joined the opinion.
As on abortion and contraception, the U.S. Supreme Court is closely divided on the scope of the individual right to bear arms under the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
In a 2013 case, Thomas Hardiman, another federal appeals court judge, dissented when the majority on his court upheld a New Jersey law regulating the possession of handguns in public. Hardiman endorsed a broad reading of Second Amendment gun rights that would protect carrying weapons outside the home for self-defense.
The list also includes David Stras, a member of Minnesota’s Supreme Court. In 2014, that court waded into the contentious subject of when a person who is incapacitated may be taken off life support and allowed to die.
The court ruled, in the case of a 57-year-old man with irreversible brain damage, that a guardian who was given medical-consent power could authorize the removal of life-sustaining treatment when “interested parties” agreed it would be in the incapacitated person’s best interest.
Stras dissented, writing that because the man had already died when the case was heard, the matter was moot and the court should have stayed out of it.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Robert Iafolla, Richard Cowan and David Ingram