Metro Weekly

Trump’s pick for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division defended HB 2 law

Labor issues lawyer Eric Dreiband has also argued for religious exemptions for nonprofits

Eric Dreiband – Photo: C-SPAN.

President Trump has nominated Eric Dreiband to serve as the head of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a White House press release, in a move that has angered LGBTQ advocates.

Dreiband currently works as attorney for the Washington-based firm Jones Day, where he represents companies involved in labor disputes. He previously served as general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under former President George W. Bush, and as deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division prior to that. He also served in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr from 1997 to 2000.

Equality advocates are alarmed at Dreiband’s nomination after he represented the University of North Carolina in a lawsuit. LGBTQ advocates sued the university for complying with the state’s anti-LGBTQ HB 2 law.

Under that law, transgender people were required to use only those facilities matching their assigned sex at birth, and state agencies were prohibited from extending forms of nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people.

In a separate case, Dreiband represented nonprofit organizations seeking religious exemptions from having to provide insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

He also argued against proposed legislation that would have allowed victims of gender and age discrimination to be compensated for their injury. 

Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, blasted Dreiband’s nomination to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which Gupta headed during the Obama administration.

“I had the honor and privilege of running the Civil Rights Division at a time when civil rights issues were at the front and center for the country. Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws,” Gupta said in a statement.

“They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”

Vanita Gupta – Photo: Department of Justice.

Gupta also said she does not believe that Dreiband has the leadership qualities required to lead the division, nor that he will resist attempts to politicize the division’s actions. She called upon the Senate to reject his nomination.

“Dreiband has devoted the vast majority of his career to defending corporations accused of employment discrimination. He has opposed important legislation to safeguard our civil rights,” Gupta said. “And he has no known experience in most of the Civil Rights Division’s core issue areas, such as voting rights, police reform, housing, education, and hate crimes. He is the wrong person for the job.”

Jesselyn McCurdy, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, also panned Dreiband’s nomination, saying he has “made a career going against women and LGBT rights.”

“With a history of restricting civil rights, Drieband’s record must be thoroughly examined and weighed for his fitness to serve in the position that is supposed to advocate for the rights of all Americans, regardless of their background,” McCurdy said in a statement. “We will watch Dreiband closely, and urge senators to ask the tough questions during his confirmation process.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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