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The lawyer picked by President Donald J. Trump to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has defended a number of laws that critics say foster discrimination against minority groups, including North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” also known as HB 2.
According to New York Magazine, John M. Gore, a former partner at the law firm Jones Day, will head the division tasked with prohibiting discrimination against Americans on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly protected by the nation’s civil rights laws, although recent lawsuits alleging such discrimination have attempted to argue that prohibitions against sex discrimination extend to LGBT people.
Gore comes to the job having argued cases before both the Sixth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, as well as various federal and state trial courts. He has also submitted briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and to other Circuit Courts of Appeals on other issues. Specifically, as reported by BuzzFeed, in 2012, Gore defended controversial redistricting plans favored by Republicans in Florida, New York and South Carolina, which some people charge were racially motivated. Florida, in particular, was later forced to redraw its congressional and state legislative districts after the state Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the boundaries of those districts were unconstitutional.
Gore also defended Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, when he attempted to purge the state’s voting rolls of “non-citizens” prior to the 2012 election. A federal court later ruled that Scott’s actions violated federal law by purging many legal voters from the rolls, ostensibly for partisan gain.
In troubling news for LGBT rights advocates, Gore defended the University of North Carolina in the case of Carcaño v. McCrory, in which UNC employees and students sued over UNC’s announcement that it would “abide by” the state’s HB 2 law. The university later claimed it had not attempted to enforce the law on its campuses. Regardless, a federal judge eventually blocked the university from enforcing the law while the law’s validity is being challenged in the courts.
The National Center for Transgender Equality issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” to hear of Gore’s nomination and calling it “unquestionably bad news for transgender people and our rights.”
“This is a disturbing choice to head the Civil Rights Division. At the core of the Justice Department’s mission is defending our civil rights,” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said in a statement. “Mr. Gore’s only civil rights experience is in defending violations of civil rights. LGBT people, voters, and others facing discrimination will still be able to go to court, but could find the federal government set against them.”
The selection of Gore comes on the heels of Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be U.S. Attorney General. Sessions’ record on civil rights and LGBT rights left many civil liberties and LGBT groups with a sour taste in their mouth, prompting many of them to officially oppose his confirmation. The pick of Gore is likely to exacerbate any negative feelings towards the Department of Justice under a Trump administration.
“President Trump just appointed someone who defended one of the most discriminatory laws in the land to a key role in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. This is shameful,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, adding “anybody who cares about civil rights should be gravely concerned.”
“President Trump appears to be assembling an anti-LGBTQ team to lead the very agency charged with ensuring every American is protected from discrimination,” Warbelow concluded.
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