The U.S. Senate this week approved three of President Trump’s picks for the judiciary — each of whom have anti-LGBT records — and in some cases the judges were confirmed from Senate Republicans who say they support LGBT rights.
The Senate confirmed Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit, Chad Readler of Ohio to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit and Eric Murphy of Ohio as U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit.
Each of three new judges has issues in their on civil rights troubling to many observers, including aspects of the record related to LGBT rights.
Rushing, who at 37 is now the youngest federal circuit judge in the United States, once had an internship at the anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
ADF has filed lawsuits seeking to bar transgender people from using restroom consistent with their gender identity and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who sought a First Amendment right to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couple based on religious objections.
Rushing, who also clerked for U.S. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, also spoke in favor of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage, when it was litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. The Supreme Court ended up striking down the anti-gay statute.
Despite Rushing’s record, all three Republican senators on the record in support of same-sex marriage — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) — voted for Rushing’s confirmation.
Vanita Gupta, CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, said in a statement Rushing’s confirmation brings bias and inexperience to the Fourth Circuit.
“Her inexperience is only outmatched by her clear bias – as evidenced by Rushing’s work with Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Gupta said. “Rushing has denounced marriage equality, opposed remedies for discriminatory lending practices, and rejected efforts to end housing discrimination against domestic and sexual violence survivors. Her record clearly shows she will not be a fair and independent judge – a reality with dire consequences for Fourth Circuit cases and the American people.”
Readler, who until recently was acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department for the Civil Division, faced opposition to his confirmation based on mostly on his signature on Trump’s administration briefs arguing protections for pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act should be struck down.
But Readler, who also defended Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries and the family separation policy for immigrants seeking asylum at the border, also built a record defending the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT legal policy.
Readler penned his name to legal briefs defending President Trump’s transgender military ban as well as voluntarily briefs arguing gay workers aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in employment, and Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Collins broke with her caucus and voted against Reader’s confirmation, citing his legal work against protections for pre-existing conditions, but she did vote to invoke cloture on his confirmation. Portman and Murkowski both voted to confirm Readler.
Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, denounced Readler’s confirmation in a statement after the vote.
“A vote for Chad Readler is a vote to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Perez said. “It’s as simple as that. Republicans have shown their true colors: They’ve confirmed a judge who has a long and disturbing record of attacking people’s health care, voting rights, and civil rights. He’ll drag us backwards on every issue – from criminal justice and consumer protection to LGBTQ rights and the treatment of immigrants. Voters will not forget this betrayal next November.”
Murphy, who until recently was solicitor general of Ohio, defended in court the state’s ban same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which despite his efforts led the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality nationwide in 2015.
Collins, Portman and Murkowski each voted for Murphy’s confirmation. In the case of Portman, who has a gay son, the senator voted for a nominee that would have deprived his son of right to marry had Murphy’s argument succeeded before the Supreme Court.
Sasha Buchert, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, took a note of Portman’s vote in a statement condemning the Murphy confirmation.
“Today’s vote to confirm Eric Murphy was yet another example of how little concern Senate Republicans have for the safety and security of the LGBT community, and their broader disdain for civil rights,” Buchert said. “The fact that even Sen. Portman, who came out publicly in support of marriage equality, could not bring himself to vote against this nominee demonstrates the extent to which Senate Republicans have completely abdicated their duty to provide meaningful advice and consent. Our federal courts will be the worse off for generations to come.”