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Capitol Hill rally calls for rejection of Jeff Mateer nomination

Trump urged to withdraw nomination of anti-LGBT judicial pick



Jeff Mateer, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) speaks at a rally outside of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday opposing the confirmation of Jeff Mateer to the federal bench. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT rights advocates, mothers of transgender children and congressional Democrats joined forces at a rally Tuesday before the U.S. Capitol to stand against the confirmation of Jeff Mateer to the federal judiciary, urging President Trump to withdraw the nomination.

The nomination of Mateer to a federal judgeship in Texas has invoked the ire of LGBT rights advocates after recent recordings were unearthed in which the nominee endorsed widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy, said marriage equality would lead to polygamy and called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan.”

Among those speaking out against Mateer was Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who called the nominee’s comments on transgender children “one of the cruelest, most malinformed comments ever” for a judicial pick.

“This is very, very disturbing that it has come to this point that we would have an administration that doesn’t have a vision of justice, in fact, such a malshaped determination that this person would ever be nominated,” Merkley said. “That is deeply, deeply disturbing.”

Mateer made the comments about transgender kids during the same 2015 Iowa conference organized by pastor Kevin Swanson, who became infamous in the LGBT community for taking that opportunity to call for the death penalty for LGBT people. (Others in attendance were then-Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal.)

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who has submitted articles of impeachment for Trump, said the Mateer nomination represents the lack of qualifications of the president who has proposed nominating him to the federal bench.

“This nominee is nothing more than further evidence that we have a president who is unfit to be president,” Green said. “We have a president who has made hate a part of his agenda it seems. He tends to incite hate.”

Other reporting has emerged in which Mateer was shown to have said the contraception mandate in Obamacare was similar to religious crackdowns in Nazi Germany. Additionally, Mateer proclaimed “we discriminate” against gay people in the Baptist Church to justify anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

Also speaking out at the Mateer really was Nan Aron, executive director of the liberal judicial advocacy group Alliance for Justice, whose organization hosted the event.

“We need to say to Donald Trump and his allies enough is enough,” Aron said. “You cannot force us to accept a person like Jeff Mateer, who is so filled with hostility toward his fellow Americans, on the federal bench.”

Julianna Gonen, policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the Mateer nomination is consistent with other anti-trans policies of the Trump administration, such as a transgender military ban and revocation of school guidance on bathroom access for transgender kids.

“We knew it before, but it has become all the more important now with this dangerous and reckless president: Courts matter, judges matter,” Gonen said. “We need federal judges who are fair and unbiased and free of extreme and hateful views, and that ain’t Jeff Mateer.”

The White House has stayed silent on Mateer’s anti-LGBT history and hasn’t responded to repeated requests from the Washington Blade to comment on whether Trump stands by the nomination.

The Mateer nomination remains pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has yet to hold a hearing for the pick. A Democratic aide said the committee has yet to obtain paperwork to proceed with the nomination.

Consternation over Mateer remains strong amid opposition to other Trump judicial nominees, such as Brett Talley, whom the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week even though he has never tried a case as a lawyer.

Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s director of strategy, warned during the rally the Mateer nomination was but one of Trump’s judicial nominees who could do damage for “generations to come.”

“Let’s be clear: There are many, many other Jeff Mateers in the pipeline,” McGowan said. “Nominees who would not only write LGBT out of the Constitution, but who fundamentally challenge our right to exist. These nominees deny the legitimacy of our relationships, take aim at our families and have declared open season on our children.”

On the same day as the Mateer rally, Lambda Legal unveiled a letter signed by 27 LGBT groups in opposition to three Trump judicial nominees: Don Willett and Stuart Kyle Duncan to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as well as Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

“Their records reveal that they will be incapable of treating LGBT litigants fairly — no matter what body of law is at issue in the cases over which they may preside — because they do not acknowledge LGBT people as having a right to exist,” the letter says. “These are not the kinds of judges that this country wants, needs or deserves. We strongly urge you to reject their respective nominations.”

One of the mothers of transgender children at the rally was Sarah Watson, who grew emotional as she told the story of her middle-school aged son coming out to her as transgender after years of difficulty growing up.

“He finally told me because it was just too painful to keep it a secret any longer,” Watson said. “He was really at a breaking point. He knew at a very early age that there is hate in this world, that it is not always safe for kids like him. He knows that there are people like Jeff Mateer who try to shame him because he’s transgender.”

The incident that inspired her son to come out, Watson said, was the speech Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride gave at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

McBride, who was the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention, also urged rejection of Mateer.

“Equal justice cannot come from someone who has compared marriage equality to bestiality, equal justice cannot come from someone who participated in a conference hosted by a proponent of the death penalty for LGBTQ people,” McBride said. “Too many, including all of us standing here today, cannot be ensured equal justice in a courtroom presided over by Jeff Mateer.”



Kemp signs Georgia’s healthcare ban targeting trans and nonbinary youth

LGBTQ, legal, and civil rights groups condemn the healthcare ban



Georgia State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed a ban on guideline-directed gender-affirming healthcare for transgender and nonbinary youth that was passed earlier this week by the GOP-controlled state legislature.

The law threatens to revoke the medical licenses of physicians who administer treatments for gender dysphoria in minor patients that are overwhelmingly considered safe, effective, and medically necessary by every scientific and medical society with relevant clinical expertise.

A previous version of S.B. 140 applied exclusively to surgical interventions, but the version signed into law Thursday also prohibits hormone replacement therapies, although treatment with puberty blockers is still allowed.

The move by GOP legislators to expand the healthcare interventions covered by the legislation follows pressure from conservatives like far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District in the House and urged the state’s lawmakers last week to make the bill more restrictive.

At the time, Greene also objected to the draft bill’s “limited exceptions” carved out for cases where patients are treated for conditions other than gender dysphoria, including those diagnosed with “a medically verifiable disorder of sex development,” provided the physician can attest they are medically necessary.

These provisions were kept intact in the bill’s final iteration, which contains additional exceptions for the treatment of partial androgen insensitivity syndrome and in circumstances where the minor patient was being treated with hormone replacement therapies prior to July 1 2023.

A chorus of objections to and condemnations of the legislation have come from LGBTQ groups, along with legal and civil rights advocacy organizations and medical societies, clinicians, and scientists, including the Georgia Psychological Association.

The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, issued a statement shortly after Kemp signed the bill Thursday, declaring that Georgia had become “the largest state to legislatively enact such a discriminatory ban.”

“Governor Kemp should be ashamed of himself — taking life-saving care away from vulnerable youth is a disgusting and indefensible act,” Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in the statement. “This law harms transgender youth and terrorizes their families, but helps no one.”

Despite the wave of legislation across the country barring access to or criminalizing gender affirming care, in most cases for minor patients, the group noted in Thursday’s release that “polling by Patinkin Research Strategies released this month shows that only 26 percent of likely November 2024 voters in Georgia supported the legislation, while 66 percent opposed it” including 63 percent of independent and 59 percent of likely Republican voters.

According to the findings of a Human Rights Campaign study that were announced Wednesday, “more than half (50.4%) of transgender youth (ages 13-17) have lost or are at risk of losing access to age appropriate, medically necessary gender-affirming care in their state” – care, the group stressed, that “can be lifesaving.”

Following the Georgia legislature’s passage of the S.B. 140 earlier this week, the ACLU warned it would “[interfere] with the rights of Georgia parents to get life-saving medical treatment for their children” and prevent “physicians from properly caring for their patients.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a statement by Beth Littrell, the organization’s senior supervising attorney for its LGBTQ and Special Litigation Practice Group, calling the bill a “cynical partisan attack on transgender youth, medical autonomy, and parental rights” and urging Kemp to “leave personal healthcare decisions in the capable hands of parents, children, and their doctors.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Families with trans kids sue Florida over trans youth healthcare ban

Ban stands ‘in direct contrast to evidence & science’



Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis & Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo (Screenshot/YouTube WTXL ABC 7 Tallahassee)

A lawsuit on behalf of four families with transgender children was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, challenging the state’s Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine’s ban on gender affirming healthcare for minors.

The legal groups representing the four families, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. (SLC) noted in the suit that the bans contradict guidelines established through years of clinical research and recommended by every major medical association including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The lawsuit also spells out that the policies unlawfully strips parents of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violates the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare to treat their gender dysphoria. 

The enactment of Florida’s transgender healthcare ban, which went into effect on March 16, 2023, has faced considerable scrutiny as a politically-motivated process instigated at the urging of the governor and ignoring established medical and scientific consensus on medical care for transgender youth. 

Statewide LGBTQ Equality rights advocacy group Equality Florida has decried the ban saying it was little more than a cultural war maneuver by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis who is widely expected to announce a run for the presidency in 2024.

In the summer of 2022, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and the Department of Health asked the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine to adopt a categorical ban on all treatment of gender dysphoria for people under eighteen years of age.

In February and March of 2023, respectively, the Boards adopted formal rules prohibiting all access to safe, effective medical treatments for transgender youth who have received a gender dysphoria diagnosis but who have not yet begun puberty delaying medication or hormone treatments. Surgeon General Ladapo and all members of the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine are defendants in the families’ suit challenging the ban.

“This policy came about through a political process with a predetermined conclusion, and it stands in direct contrast to the overwhelming weight of the evidence and science,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel. “There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care. I have worked with families and their healthcare providers in Florida for many years. They work tirelessly every day to ensure the best health outcomes for their kids and patients, and they are worried sick about the devastating impacts that this ban will have.”

“The Florida Boards of Medicine chose to ignore the evidence and science in front of them and instead put families in the unthinkable position of not being able to provide essential healthcare for their kids,” said Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

“Parents, not the government, should make healthcare decisions for their children,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This policy crosses a dangerous line and should concern anyone who cares about family privacy or the ability of doctors to do their jobs without undue government interference.”    

“It’s alarming to see such a concerted, top-down effort to target a small and vulnerable population,” said Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director. “The Florida Surgeon General, Department of Health and Boards of Medicine should be focused on the real and serious public health issues Florida faces, not on putting transgender kids and their families in harm’s way.”

In a press statement by the legal teams representing them, the four families also weighed in:

“Like most parents, my husband and I want nothing more than for our daughter to be healthy, happy, and safe,” said Jane Doe speaking about her 11-year-old daughter, Susan. “Being able to consult with our team of doctors to understand what our daughter is experiencing and make the best, most informed decisions about her care has been critically important for our family. She is a happy, confident child, but this ban takes away our right to provide her with the next step in her recommended treatment when she reaches puberty. The military doctors we work with understand the importance of providing that evidence-based, individualized care. We’re proud to serve our country, but we are being treated differently than other military families because of a decision by politicians in the state where we are stationed. We have no choice but to fight this ban to protect our daughter’s physical and mental health.”

“This ban puts me and other Florida parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most,” said Brenda Boe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her fourteen-year-old son, Bennett Boe. “My son has a right to receive appropriate, evidence-based medical care. He was finally getting to a place where he felt hopeful, where being prescribed testosterone was on the horizon and he could see a future for himself in his own body. That has been ripped away by this cruel and discriminatory rule.” 

“Working with our healthcare team to understand what my daughter is experiencing and learning there are established, effective treatments that are already helping her to thrive has been an incredible relief,” said Fiona Foe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her ten-year-old daughter, Freya Foe. “I know everyone may not understand what it means to have a transgender child, but taking away our opportunity to help our daughter live a healthy and happy life is cruel and unfair.”

“Our daughter has been saying she is a girl since she was three – it hasn’t gone away,” said Carla Coe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with her nine-year-old daughter, Christina Coe. “Since she started being able to live as a girl she has been so much happier and better adjusted. Having the resources and support to make the best decisions for her wellbeing has been so important for our family. I’m scared this ban will take away the essential medical care she may need when she gets older. We just want to do what’s right for our kid.”

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Takano to renew House Democrats’ push for the Equality Act

Measure would extend federal anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans



Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, issued a statement Thursday pledging to introduce the Equality Act during this Congress, legislation that would extend federal anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans.

The bill would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in “employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding housing, and public accommodations.”

Four previous versions were introduced in the House by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. The Biden administration and congressional Democrats have signaled that the legislation remains a major priority despite the Republicans now exercising their majority control of the lower chamber.

With Cicilline’s planned departure from Congress on June 1 to lead the nonprofit Rhode Island Foundation, Takano thanked and credited his colleague “for his leadership on behalf of our community and stewardship of the Equality Act.”

Cicilline, who drafted the legislation and chaired the Equality Caucus in the last Congress before Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) took over this year, noted the heightened importance of the Equality Act’s passage amid the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ and especially anti-trans legislation.

“With homophobic and transphobic legislation being proposed in state legislatures across the country and here in Congress,” he said, “it is far past time we act to finally outlaw discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community by passing the Equality Act.”

The legislation is also backed by major LGBTQ advocacy groups including the nation’s largest, the Human Rights Campaign. “There is overwhelming support for this bill among the American people and the business community, and we will continue fighting until this bill is signed into law,” said the organization’s President Kelley Robinson.

Robinson also thanked Cicilline for his leadership on the bill and said the Human Rights Campaign looks forward to working with Takano, “an incredible champion for our community” who “is the perfect leader for this effort” to “build on he work Congressman Cicilline started and get the Equality Act signed into law.”

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