Metro Weekly

HRC urges defeat of 5 of Trump’s most anti-LGBTQ judicial nominees

HRC says all five, if confirmed to lifetime appointments, could threaten LGBTQ equality in the future

Jeff Mateer – Photo: “The Church and Homosexuality,” via Vimeo.

The Human Rights Campaign is targeting five of President Trump’s judicial nominees, whose lifetime appointments to the federal bench could seriously imperil the fate of LGBTQ rights in the courts.

The organization has targeted:

  • Jeff Mateer, nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Damien Schiff and Stephen Schwartz, both nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • Leonard Steven Grasz, nominated to the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals
  • Mark Norris, nominated to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee

Schiff and Schwartz have already seen their nominations approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on party-line votes, while Grasz’s and Norris’ nominations are scheduled for a vote on Thursday.

Mateer has not yet been approved by the committee, in part due to controversy stemming from videotaped and recorded remarks in which he called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan.”

“In their crusade against the LGBTQ community, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are doing everything they can to stack our federal courts and all agencies of the government with anti-LGBTQ nominees and appointments,” Sarah Warbelow, HRC’s legal director, said in a statement. “This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the progress we’ve made and weave discrimination into every part of our government.”

Mateer is probably the most high-profile of the nominees, due to a speech he gave at a religious conference titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” where he decried a transgender student’s request to use the restroom consistent with her gender identity.

Due to the inflammatory nature of his remarks, some Republicans have expressed concerns over Mateer’s ability to be impartial, should he be confirmed to the bench. 

Mateer has also said that marriage equality will lead to polygamy and bestiality, and supported efforts by then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to allow individuals and businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ individuals. He has fought against nondiscrimination protections in Plano and San Antonio, and supports allowing the practice of conversion therapy on minors.

Schiff, a prolific blogger is best known for controversial posts in which he espoused anti-LGBTQ views. He has called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute,” opposed anti-bullying policies — even going so far as to encourage parents to pull their children from school lest they be exposed to curriculum that discourages anti-LGBTQ bullying — and expressed opposition to marriage equality, defending California’s Proposition 8 by falsely claiming that it was not discriminatory because same-sex couples already enjoyed the same rights as married opposite-sex couples.

Grasz, a board member of the anti-gay Nebraska Family Alliance, has previously said that marriage equality is a “threat” to society, has expressed support for conversion therapy, and has opposed legal protections for LGBTQ people.

Even more concerning, though, is the fact that the American Bar Association unanimously decided to rate him “Not Qualified” to serve as a federal judge, citing his inability to rule on cases without bias and his seeming wish to push a conservative social agenda.

This marks only the third unanimously “Not Qualified” rating the ABA has given since 1989.

Norris, the majority leader in the Tennessee State Senate, supported a host of anti-LGBTQ legislation during his time in office, including a law allowing mental health providers to refuse service to LGBTQ clients, and legislation opposing marriage equality, allowing people to discriminate against LGBTQ people by citing their religious beliefs, and preventing municipalities from passing pro-LGBTQ ordinances.

HRC previously joined 27 other LGBTQ groups in signing a letter opposing Schwartz’s nomination due to his defense of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB 2 law. Schwartz also served as co-counsel to the Gloucester County School Board after it was sued by transgender student Gavin Grimm for denying him access to the boys’ restroom, arguing that Title IX did not protect transgender students from discrimination.

“There are scores of under-qualified nominees with terrible anti-equality records, and Jeff Mateer, Damien Schiff, Leonard Steven Grasz, Mark Norris, and Stephen Schwartz are among the worst of the worst,” Warbelow said. “The Senate must reject their nominations to lifetime appointments to the federal bench.”

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

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