On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted for cloture, or to end debate, on the nomination of a lawyer who has demonstrated deep-seated animus towards members of the LGBTQ community.
John Kenneth Bush, a lawyer in private practice in Louisville, Ky., and a member of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill a vacancy on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate voted to end debate on his nomination on a party-line vote of 51-48, setting the stage for a future confirmation vote in the coming days.
The nomination of Bush, who has not previously served as a judge, to a federal appeals court has inflamed progressive-leaning activists, who point to his long history of statements and his authorship, under a pseudonym, of more than 400 blog posts expressing animus towards abortion rights opponents and to LGBTQ rights, in particular.
Bush has written that “slavery and abortion” are the “two greatest tragedies in our country.” In his Senate questionnaire, he dismissively referred to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers as a “police encounter.” He has also written of his objection that a Supreme Court ruling that provides protections journalists reporting on public officials, arguing it was wrongly decided.
With respect to LGBTQ rights, Bush has already seen his nomination opposed by a host of pro-equality groups, 16 of whom wrote a letter earlier this year urging the Senate Judiciary Committee not to approve his nomination based on public statements and writings that the groups say demonstrates “contempt for LGBT Americans, people living with HIV, women, and other vulnerable populations.”
Specifically, the groups noted in their letter that his opposition to abortion rights threatens to undermine the legal basis for decisions that resulted in the expansion of LGBTQ rights, including the right of individuals to engage in private consensual adult relationships, and the right to procreative freedom. The groups also note that Bush has made public statements expressing his opposition to marriage equality and utilizing anti-gay slurs.
“Mr. Bush apparently feels as though the term ‘faggot’ is acceptable language to use in a public address. Any attempt to excuse this language by suggesting that Mr. Bush was merely quoting another should be dismissed out of hand,” the LGBTQ groups wrote in their letter. “In addition to being offensive, use of this epithet in a public speech illustrates a stunning lack of judgment, not to mention a gross insensitivity to the experiences of vulnerable communities. These traits are incompatible with the role of a federal judge.”
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a member of Democratic Senate leadership and one of the major opponents of Bush’s nomination, called the decision to allow Bush’s nomination to move forward “unconscionable.”
“[A]long with his views about women, we’ve learned of a disturbing pattern of hostility toward the LGBTQ community,” Murray said in a floor speech opposing Bush. “In several articles, Bush has praised court decisions that attack LGBTQ rights. He’s used anti-LGBTQ slurs in his personal speeches. And he’s publicly applauded statements made by candidates for office and government officials that oppose marriage equality.
“I hope it is becoming clear that this is not a normal nominee, and that this is someone who lacks the qualifications and character and temperament to be appointed to a lifetime position on the federal bench,” Murray added. “It is time for President Trump to stop trying to divide our country and use federal court nominations to push his extreme agenda to undo progress for women and the LGBTQ community.”