Sotomayor Withdraws from Belizean Grove

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has decided to quit her all-women’s group, Belizean Grove, amid increasing criticism from Republicans. Sotomayor said she didn’t want her membership to become an issue during the confirmation hearings.

In documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor openly wrote of her membership in the group, saying, "I am a member of the Belizean Grove, a private organization of female professionals from the profit, nonprofit and social sectors. The organization does not invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex. Men are involved in its activities—they participate in trips, host events and speak at functions—but to the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership." Sotomayor also said she didn’t want questions about the organization to "distract anyone from my qualifications and record."

"The Belizean Grove is a constellation of influential women who are key decision-makers in the profit, nonprofit and social sectors who build long-term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same," the group says on its Web site. There are about 115 members, the club says.

Federal judges are bound by a code that says they shouldn't join any organization that discriminates by race, sex, religion or nationality. Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg belongs to the membership-only International Women's Forum (as did former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor), critics continued to question Sotomayor’s involvement with Belizean Grove. Rush Limbaugh recently lashed out at Sotomayor with a racist joke over her involvement with the group, saying, "I think I'm going to send Sotomayor and her club a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meetings."

Sotomayor’s senate confirmation hearings will begin on July 13.