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Opinion | Sexuality

Sonia Sotomayor: 'I Feel Your Pain'

Why the new judge's empathy—extended to more than just Latina women—will serve the Supreme Court well.

Women: Imagine you've been having problems with pre-menstrual depression or unpleasant menopausal symptoms. Men: Imagine you're having problems that are probably prostate-related, or maybe you're having trouble getting it up. All else being equal (though of course it never is), would you rather see a male or a female physician?

Empathy matters. That's why I'm not worried about the line from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 lecture, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Yes, she needs to explain what she did and did not mean - and I'm sure she'll be given the opportunity to do so. Chances are, she did not mean that she would toss objective law out the window whenever a Latina woman walked into the courtroom. After all, in 1997 Sotomayor told Senator Jeff Sessions, "I do not believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it."

And I'm guessing Sotomayor didn't mean she thinks that, all things being equal, Anglo-Saxon men make inferior judges. In the 2001 lecture, in fact, she said she believes "that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable."

The point is, all things are never equal, and with a diversified set of justices, ...

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