Gay rights groups in the USA were quick to criticise President Bush as pandering to the far right by choosing jurist Samuel Alito to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

They expressed particular doubt as to Alito’s willingness to protect the rights of LGBT and HIV-affected people.

Alito’s nomination comes on the heels of hopeful Harriet Miers bowing out of her nomination last week after scathing attacks from the extreme right.

Legal experts and activists from across the spectrum agree that Alito, 55, has been a consistently conservative voice on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since he was seated there in 1990 by then-President George Bush Sr.

Some have nicknamed him “Scalito” and “Scalia Lite” because his judicial philosophy so closely mirrors that of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. “You can’t get much more conservative than Sam Alito,” legal scholar Jonathan Turley told NBC’s Today Show on Monday.

Unlike Harriet Miers, Alito has a long record of legal opinion and ideology, and 15 years of decisions that may be at odds with gay and lesbian equality, LGBT activists say.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese criticized Bush for choosing to “placate the far right instead of appealing to the fair-minded values of the American people.”

“President Bush capitulated to the howling from the extreme evangelical right and threw them red meat in the form of U.S. Circuit Court Judge Samuel Alito,” said Matt Forman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “”he country will now be put through a wrenching, divisive and damaging confirmation process. One more travesty inflicted on this nation by the president and his right-wing allies.”

Most of the nomination’s harshest critics have slammed Bush for allegedly conspiring with right-wing activists in choosing Alito. The Washington Post reported Monday that Bush consulted the conservative, anti-gay organization Concerned Women for America to ensure Alito was acceptable to them.

The revelation, and the likelihood that Bush consulted other anti-gay organizations, should raise alarm bells for LGBT citizens, said Eric Stern, Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

“Americans need to know why right-wing activists, the same ones who rejected Miers for not being clearly conservative, are practically salivating over this nominee. These anti-gay organizations are on President Bush’s speed dial,” Stern said.