Bench Memos

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“Well, Nobody’s Perfect”


That’s the last line in Some Like It Hot.  If you know the movie, you’ll get in a minute why I thought of it.  This morning a really fascinating story caught my eye in the New York Times: “Transgender Candidate Who Ran as Woman Did Not Mislead Voters, Court Says.”  The Times treats this case, a decision by the Georgia Supreme Court, as a great victory in the fight of the “transgendered” for equality and respect.

But the Times’ Atlanta reporter can’t read a case, or didn’t bother to.  My curiosity was piqued–mostly by the gaps in the Times story, like, just how “transgendered” was this person?  Um, surgically?  Or was this just a Jerry-becomes-Daphne story?  Well, I never found out, but here’s what I did learn.

It seems that one Michelle Bruce, having served four years on the Riverdale, Georgia city council, was running for re-election last year.  Her opponents found out that Michelle was actually Michael, and said so. Bruce still got enough votes to get into the runoff in her/his ward (but was defeated in that second round).  Two defeated opponents who didn’t make it to the runoff alleged electoral irregularities of various kinds, including the supposed deception of Michael running as Michelle.  Got it?

Well, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that there wasn’t evidence of any electoral shenanigans with enough impact on the outcome to warrant a jury trial of the issues.  But the state’s high court did not–repeat, did not–hold that Michael Bruce “did not mislead voters” when he ran as a woman.  All it held was that the “alleged irregularities are insufficient to put the results of the election in doubt.”  That’s it.

Oh, and the experts and advocates whom the Times reporter called up to get reactions, and who celebrated this great “victory” for the transgendered, might want to read the case too.  Candidate Bruce is mentioned by full name once, and by pronoun just once, in the court’s five-page opinion.  The court calls him Michael Bruce, and uses the pronoun “he.”

But, well, nobody’s perfect.


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