October 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Susan Collins lambasted by LGBT groups for Kavanaugh support

Juror Non-Discrimination Act, Susan Collins, Senate, Victory Fund, Republican

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) declared her Brett Kavanaugh support in a Senate floor speech. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) faced harsh criticism from LGBT rights groups on Friday for her declaration she’d vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement “we are deeply disappointed in Sen. Collins today” after her speech on the Senate floor affirming support for Kavanaugh.

“In one of the most consequential vote of her lifetime — and of her constituents’ lifetimes — she has opted to back a dangerous, unqualified nominee who repeatedly lied under oath and has multiple credible allegations of sexual assault,” Griffin said. “The harmful consequences of Sen. Collins’ decision to support Brett Kavanaugh will last decades.”

With Collins’ support, Kavanaugh has the necessary votes for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another undecided senator, declared he’d vote for Kavanaugh shortly after Collins’ speech.

Griffin urged voters to demonstrate their anger with Collins by taking to the polls in the congressional mid-term elections and voting out senators who support Kavanaugh.

“In the wake of this news, there is only one course of action,” Griffin said. “The millions of Americans who have fought a valiant struggle against this despicable nominee must make their voices heard in November and beyond by electing lawmakers who will stand up for our rights rather than sell us out.”

In years past, the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Collins when she was up for re-election and faced Democratic challengers because of her support for LGBT rights initiatives, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It’s hard to see how that support will continue in the Kavanaugh vote.

Collins declared in a floor speech she “will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh” hours after she was among the 51 senators to vote for cloture to allow the Senate to move forward with the nomination.

In response to Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony asserting a 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when she was a teenager, Collins said the accusation isn’t enough to preclude the nominee from sitting on the Supreme Court.

“Fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet the threshold of ‘more likely than not’ as our standard,” Collins said. “The facts presented do not mean the Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the ‘more likely than not’ standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”

Amid concerns Kavanaugh would vote to reverse the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court for marriage equality, Collins said Kavanaugh indicated he wouldn’t overturn the decision in his confirmation hearing. (LGBT legal experts have said his responses were wholly unsatisfying.)

“Others I’ve met with have expressed concerns that Justice Kennedy’s retirement threatens the right of same-sex couples to marry,” Collins said. “Yet Judge Kavanaugh described the Obergefell decision, which legalized same-gender marriages, as an important landmark precedent. He also cited Justice Kennedy’s recent Masterpiece Cakeshop opinion for the court’s majority, stating that, ‘The days of treating gay and lesbian Americans or and gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens who are inferior in dignity and worth are over in the Supreme Court.'”

Marriage equality is but one LGBT rights issue. Other LGBT-related cases that may come to Supreme Court with Kavanaugh on the bench including litigation challenging President Trump’s transgender military ban, whether federal civil laws against sex discrimination applies to LGBT people and whether “religious freedom” affords a right for individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

Sharon McGowan, legal director for Lambda Legal, also criticized Collins, saying the senator’s rationale for supporting Kavanaugh ranges “from naïve to disingenuous” and “can only be described as magical thinking.”

“Furthermore, her discrediting of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s (and others’) allegations against Brett Kavanaugh speaks far more loudly than the empty words she offered in support of sexual assault survivors, and her reliance on an incomplete and politically manipulated investigation to justify her decision was shameful,” McGowan said. “By relying on fantasy instead of fact, and by putting party ahead of people, Sen. Collins is apparently willing to ignore the overwhelming majority of Mainers who have urged her to oppose this nomination in order to avoid the ire of Republican Party bosses and the White House.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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