CONSERVATIVES PONDER A GAY SUPREME COURT NOMINEE…. About a year ago, before Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination, there was some discussion about how the right would respond if President Obama chose a gay jurist to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. The discussion is once again underway in some circles, but it’s not improving.

Last May, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he’d be open to a nominee with “gay tendencies.” A spokesperson for Focus on the Family told Greg Sargent that sexual orientation need not be a deciding factor.

“The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not,” the FOTF spokesperson said. A nominee’s sexual orientation “should never come up. It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”

It was an encouraging development. Even if Focus was being disingenuous — and I believe it was — the fact that a group spokesperson would make these comments on the record was heartening. Even for a right-wing group, there was a sense that nominees should be evaluated on the merits. It reflected a growing maturity in our discourse.

That maturity has since disappeared. Focus on the Family has now “clarified” the group’s position, explaining that it would oppose a gay nominee, regardless of his or her qualifications, because gay people are immoral. Focus’ Tom Minnery told an anti-gay activist this week:

“We can assure you that we recognize that homosexual behavior is a sin and does not reflect God’s created intent and desire for humanity. Further, we at Focus do affirm that character and moral rectitude should be key considerations in appointing members of the judiciary, especially in the case of the highest court in the land. Sexual behavior — be it heterosexual or homosexual — certainly lies at the heart of personal morality.”

As for the sane, responsible remarks a Focus spokesperson said last May, Focus on the Family now believes it would like a “do over” on those comments.

They were, apparently, far too sensible.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.