Ambassador to Malta: Who Is Douglas Kmiec?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

President Obama rewarded one of his most prominent conservative Catholic supporters by nominating Douglas W. Kmiec to be ambassador to Malta, a tiny Mediterranean island nation with an overwhelmingly Catholic population and little present-day strategic significance. In fact, the position has been filled exclusively by political appointees since 1987. Nominated on July 2, 2009, Kmiec was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on August 7, and sworn in September 2, 2009. 

Kmiec was born September 24, 1951, in Chicago. He earned a B.A. from Northwestern University in 1973 and a J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1976. He was a member of the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame from 1980 to 1999, including director of the Thomas J. White Center on Law and Government from 1987 to 1988. During those years, he received leaves of absence to serve in the Reagan administration.  He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1982 to 1983. He worked in the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel from 1985 to 1989, first as Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 1985 to 1987, and then as Assistant Attorney General from 1988 to 1989. From 2001 to 2003, he was Dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America School of Law in Washington, D.C. Since 2003, he has taught constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law, which is well known as a center of conservative legal thought. 
Although previously a conservative Republican and an ardent opponent of abortion rights, in 2008 Kmiec surprised many by announcing his support for the Presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. He wrote in March 2008 that he believed that Obama respected opposing opinions on life issues, and that the damage done to the Presidency by the George W. Bush administration demanded a change of course. As a direct result, a Catholic priest denied communion to Kmiec in May 2008, although the archbishop of Los Angeles later abjured this conduct. About a year after his Obama endorsement, Kmiec again surprised his friends on the religious right when he publicly criticized efforts to limit marriage to heterosexuals; instead, he argued that state governments should offer civil unions to all regardless of sexuality, with churches and other religious institutions responsible for performing marriages. 
Kmiec is married to Carolyn Keenan, with whom he has five children. A Republican, in 2000 Kmiec donated $250 to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. 
- Matt Bewig
Equality in Substance and in Name (by Douglas W. Kmiec and Shelley Ross Saxer, San Francisco Chronicle)
For Obama but against Abortion (by Douglas W. Kmiec, Los Angeles Times)
Endorsing Obama (by Doug Kmiec, Slate)


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