By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major civil rights groups announced their opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on Thursday, but admitted it will be an uphill battle to deny him confirmation by the Republican-led Senate.
In a pair of reports, they cited the 55-year-old conservative's record both as a Reagan administration lawyer in the 1980s and then in his 15 years as a federal appeals judge in portraying Alito as a threat to civil rights.
"Not only is he diametrically opposed to all that the NAACP has worked for, but ... is intent on promoting his personal ideals and beliefs," said Bruce Gordon, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the country's largest and oldest civil rights organization.
Gordon was joined at a Capitol Hill news conference by leaders of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Black Leadership Forum and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
President George W. Bush has nominated Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often has been the swing vote on civil rights and other social issues before the nine-member court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is to open confirmation hearings on Alito on January 9, with the full Senate expected to vote on whether to approve him a few weeks later.
"It's an uphill battle" to deny Alito confirmation, said Theodore Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noting Bush's fellow Republicans control the Senate.
But Shaw added, "I can't think of one battle that I've been engaged in ... that hasn't been an uphill battle. We are not afraid of uphill battles. We have won many."
Major civil rights groups had also opposed Bush's first nominee to the Supreme Court, John Roberts, who was confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 78-22. Republicans control the chamber with 55 of 100 seats.
In advance of Alito's confirmation hearing, liberal and conservative advocacy groups have jockeyed for position as they wage their own campaigns for and against him.
Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, opposed Alito, while the National Association of Manufacturers, the country's largest industrial trade association, announced its support.
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