Flouting the recognition of June as Pride Month, the U.S. Senate approved on Wednesday a Trump judicial nominee who has a long anti-LGBT record, including defense of Kim Davis for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Senate confirmed Matthew Kacsmaryk to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas by a vote of 52-46.
Joining the united Democratic caucus in opposition to Kacsmaryk was Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who cited in a statement his “alarming bias against the rights of LGBTQ Americans and disregard for Supreme Court precedents.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first out lesbian elected to the Senate, called on her colleagues from the Senate floor to vote against Kacsmaryk based on his anti-LGBT record, displaying on a placard the title of one of his writings: “The Inequality Act: Weaponizing Same-Sex Marriage.”
Baldwin said he heard from dozens of parents of transgender children who have voiced concern about the prospect of Kacsmaryk on the bench.
“I urge my colleagues to send the message to those children, their parents, and the broader LGBTQ community, and the country, that they do count, that they count, that they matter, that we hear their voices, and please, reject this nominee,” Baldwin said.
Also speaking out on the Senate floor against Kacsmaryk was Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who said his history demonstrates he won’t be an impartial judge and his views are “hateful and out the mainstream.”
“Mr. Kacsmaryk is another example of an extreme choice by President Trump to jam courts with individuals who will put their political views above the law and use their positions of power to chip away at people’s rights,” Murray said.
Before his confirmation, Kacsmaryk served as deputy general counsel of the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, an organization that seeks to advance religious freedom even at the expense of LGBT rights.
First Liberty Institute is responsible for the litigation filed by Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of “Sweetcakes by Melissa” in Oregon, who were fined $135,000 under state law for refusing to make a wedding cake to a lesbian couple and are now asserting a First Amendment right to refuse service to LGBT people.
Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the fine and ordered the Oregon state courts to revisit the case under new guidance from the 2018 ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
But Kacsmaryk has a long record of anti-LGBT positions and writings, defining the LGBT rights struggle at one time as a “clash of absolutes” between “religious liberty and sexual liberty.”
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, Kacsmaryk said the ruling found an “unwritten” right under the Fourteenth Amendment that was “a secret knowledge so cleverly concealed in the nineteenth century amendment that it took almost 150 years to find.”
When Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kacsmaryk defended her, comparing her to Quakers who refuse fight in war and Jewish butchers who follow kosher dietary laws.
After the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2015 the prohibition on sex discrimination applies to cases of anti-gay discrimination, Kacsmaryk told The World, an outlet that reports on religious freedom, the decision was the latest in efforts to undermine marriage law.
“Traditionally and legally, we define sex according to chromosomes…That’s typically how we define sex,” Kacsmaryk said. “That’s how we ordered our marriage laws and made certain presumptions of paternity in the family code. All of that is cast into disarray if you declare sex irrelevant to marriage.”
When the Obama administration issued a rule interpreting the prohibition of sex discrimination under the Affordable Care Act to apply to transgender people, Kacsmaryk opposed the regulation and called it “radical self-definition and sex-actualization.”
LGBT rights supporters have also criticized Kacsmaryk for signing onto a comment when the rule was proposed saying transgender people suffer from a “psychological condition in need of care” and are “not a category of persons in need of special legal protection.”
The comment cites the opinion of a psychiatrist who has said having a transgender identity are suffering from a “delusion,” which critics have attributed to Kacsmaryk himself.
The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the LGBT opposition to Kacsmaryk.
Although Collins joined Democrats in voting against Kacsmaryk, the Maine Republican hasn’t applied a consistent standard with respect to judicial nominees based on their LGBT rights records.
For example, Collins last year voted in favor of the confirmation U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan despite his anti-LGBT record, which includes representing the Virginia school that sought to prevent transgender student Gavin Grimm from using the restroom consistent with his gender identity.
The Blade has placed a request in with Collins’ office on why she’d oppose Kacsmaryk, but not Duncan.