WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate confirmed Ohio’s state solicitor to a seat on the Sixth Circuit on Thursday, the body’s second such installment in as many days.
Eric Murphy became the state solicitor for Ohio in 2013, having previously worked for the law firm Jones Day in its Columbus office. That time in government put Murphy at the forefront of several high-profile legal issues, including a Supreme Court battle where Murphy defended Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Murphy did not argue the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case, but his name appears on the state’s brief defending Ohio’s ban on gay marriage. The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed with the state’s arguments in the case and issued a 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage across the country.
More recently at the Supreme Court, Murphy defended Ohio’s method of purging its voter rolls in a challenge. Voting rights advocates challenged Ohio’s practice, saying it disproportionately made it more difficult for people of color to vote.
The Supreme Court upheld the Ohio voting law in a 5-4 decision last year.
Democrats latched onto Murphy’s courtroom work as a reason to oppose his nomination, saying he would be a vote on the appeals court restricting civil rights.
“Judges around this country, judges supported by this majority, none of whom think for themselves when it comes to voting on these nominations, all the way up to the Supreme Court, they’re dismantling these rights,” Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said on the Senate floor before the vote.
In his testimony before the Senate, however, Murphy insisted that he made the arguments he did in court because it was his job to defend Ohio’s laws.
“As the state solicitor of Ohio (an appellate lawyer for the state and its officers), I was tasked with defending in the appellate courts the state laws and policies that were adopted by Ohio or by its state officials,” Murphy wrote in response to questions submitted after his nomination hearing.
Murphy also took issue with Democrats’ claims that his brief in Obergefell called gay marriage “disruptive … to our constitutional democracy,” saying the quote was taken out of the context of the broader argument.
“Ohio’s brief did not take a position on the critical public-policy debate about whether same-sex marriage should be permitted,” Murphy wrote in response to questions Senator Mazie Hirono submitted after his hearing. “The brief instead focused on a process question: Who should decide the important issue?”
Murphy cleared the Senate 52-46 Thursday afternoon.