Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Trump-Pence Anti-LGBTQ Nominees

Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve 23 nominees to the executive and judicial branch. Four anti-LGBTQ nominees were advanced: Eric Dreiband to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department; Kyle Duncan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas; and Mark Norris to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

“These nominees pose a threat to the rights and safety of LGBTQ people across the nation and should not be entrusted with these important positions” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director Director. “These nominees have anti-LGBTQ records that are disturbing and disqualifying. The Senate should reject them.”

Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote: “What we saw this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee was quite astonishing. On one side of the room sat civil rights leaders, parents of trans kids, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus all united behind Senate Democrats in their effort to stop a slate of President Trump’s most divisive and appalling nominees to the executive and judicial branches.

“In stark contrast on the other side of the room sat a cowardly group of Senate Republicans, led by Chairman Grassley, abdicating their responsibilities and telling every face in the crowd that their voices don’t matter. If Senate Republicans refuse to be a check on this Administration’s most bigoted impulses, the American people will. Whether it’s Jeff Mateer, Kyle Duncan, Matthew Kacsmaryk, or Eric Dreiband, Lambda Legal is ready to fight this Administration’s plan to pack the courts and agencies with people who have made their careers opposing civil rights and equality for all, particularly LGBT people.

“We expect that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon bring this fight to the Senate floor, where he and every Republican Senator will have to decide whether they are going to continue to embrace Trump’s racist, homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic agenda, or whether they are going to listen the voices of the American people who know that bigotry and hate have no place in our country and our courts.”

Eric Dreiband, Nominee to head Civil Rights Division, Justice Department — Dreiband has a long career opposing vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws. He had a personal role in defending North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), which restricted transgender citizens’ access to public restrooms in that state. By all acccounts, Dreiband volunteered to join the legal team defending the University of North Carolina in the Department of Justice suit, which strove to hold the University and other state entities accountable for the federally-prohibited discrimination mandated by state law.

Kyle Duncan, Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — Duncan represented the Gloucester County School Board in their case against Gavin Grimm, the transgender high school student whose restroom access was restricted based on his gender identity. He represented Louisiana in the state’s bid to uphold its same-sex marriage ban and wrote an amicus brief for LA and 14 other states arguing their same-sex marriage bans did not undermine the decision in Windsor. Ane he argued a couple married in New York could not have their names added to the birth certificate of a child they adopted in Louisiana on the basis that the state did not recognize same-sex marriages at the time and its adoption statute does not allow unmarried couples to adopt.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas — In addition to his work for anti-LGBTQ organizations in legal cases, he has written several op-eds and public comments in recent years that strongly oppose same-sex marriage, legal class protections for “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”, and the rights of transgender citizens.

Mark Norris, Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee — Norris opposed the landmark case, Obergefell v. Hodges, where the Supreme Court established marriage equality. In 2004, Norris supported a resolution to amend the state constitution to define marriage between a man and a woman. In an attempt to undermine Obergefell, Norris endorsed Senate Bill 1085, and its House companion, House Bill 111, which would have excluded same-sex couples from the benefits and rights of marriage. In 2011, Norris supported Senate Bill 49, a bill prohibiting teachers in public schools from providing instruction on LGBTQ issues in human sexuality classes. Norris has voiced his disapproval of transgender-inclusive protections. In 2016, he went on to support Tennessee’s lawsuit against the Obama Administration over the guidance letter extending Title IX rights to transgender students.