Metro Weekly

Trump judicial nominee captured on audio making anti-gay statements

Gordon Giampietro wrote online comments and appeared on radio interviews to disparage the push for marriage equality

Gordon Giampietro – Photo: Northwestern Mutual.

It’s not unusual to see headlines that a Trump judicial nominee has an anti-LGBTQ record. But it’s another thing to have those comments captured on tape.

Gordon Giampietro, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Wisconsin, has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. His nomination has yet to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As first reported by BuzzFeed, Giampietro, who most recently served as an assistant general counsel for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, made various comments disparaging diversity and LGBTQ rights, both in writing for a Catholic website and in radio interviews.

On March 25, 2014, Giampietro wrote a comment on the website Catholic Thing that “calls for diversity” are “code for relaxed standards (moral and intellectual)” in response to a blog post on the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception to their employees.

The comment is no longer available, but was saved in an earlier version of the post by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Notably, Giampietro did not disclose the online comments he made in his Senate questionnaire. But he did list two radio interviews he gave to the Nazareth Project, a socially conservative radio show.

In July 2014, Giampietro appeared on the show to talk about court cases involving LGBTQ rights and challenges to various bans on same-sex marriage. In response to a characterization by host Lydia LaCoco that compared same-sex marriages to a “sexualized friendship” rather than one focused on raising children, Giampietro agreed.

“This new definition of marriage actually focuses marriage on the sex act,” he said. “Because if it were simply that we wanted to honor the love of two people, we would allow sons to marry their mothers, brothers to marry their sisters, for example, to get them healthcare. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Doesn’t society think that would be a great thing, if a sister could get her brother on healthcare?”

Giampietro also raised the possibility that conservative Christians or devout religious believers may have to choose to be martyred in order to defend their religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage.

A year later, Giampietro returned to the show for a second interview, in which he criticized the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality.

He said it was “irrefutable” that children are best raised by a heterosexual couple, and called same-sex relationships “troubled.”

He also called the Obergefell decision “worse” than the decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade “because of the damage it does to civil society,” and characterized the decision as “an assault on the conscience rights of all Americans.”

Giampietro also took a swipe at Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote in the marriage equality case, accusing him of failing to adhere to legal reasoning in matters involving LGBTQ rights, starting with his decision in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the Supreme Court found state sodomy laws unconstitutional.

A Trump administration official told BuzzFeed that “Giampietro’s personal religious views have nothing to do with what he will do as a federal judge. He demonstrated his commitment to the rule of law and the ability to put those views aside for over a dozen years serving the people of Milwaukee as an assistant United States attorney. He’ll be able to do the same thing as a judge.”

Giampietro’s name was among several approved by a bipartisan judicial commission in Wisconsin for the federal judgeship and sent to the White House for consideration by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R).

A spokesman for Baldwin told BuzzFeed that Baldwin has not yet returned a “blue slip” on Giampietro to the Senate Judiciary Committee — a move by which the home state senator of a nominee signals their approval.

In previous legislative sessions, the Judiciary Committee has not moved forward with nominees that do not obtain blue slips from their state’s senators, but Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has ignored that tradition this year.

Civil rights groups have pounced on Giampietro’s nomination as only the latest in a slew of federal judicial nominees that have demonstrated a significant degree of anti-LGBTQ animus. And several have called for senators to reject Giampietro’s nomination outright if the White House refuses to rescind its offer.

One in three of Trump’s judicial nominees have an explicit anti-LGBT record and Mr. Giampietro is just the latest to get caught red-handed voicing his bigotry on air,” Sharon McGowan, the director of strategy for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This type of prejudice and bias have no place in Wisconsin and no place in our federal courts.

“The vitriolic and incendiary anti-LGBT rhetoric from Giampietro captured in this recording, while shocking and disturbing, is unfortunately par for the course with respect to many of the judicial nominees coming out of this White House,” McGowan added. “But even if it is becoming commonplace, we must never treat this as normal. That is why Lambda Legal is calling on the Trump Administration to immediately rescind this nomination.”

“Gordon Giampietro is yet another Trump judicial nominee with a troubling record of bias,” added Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If the Trump White House knew about these comments and nominated him anyway, it is an alarming commentary on their view of the role judges serve in our society. If they did not know about these comments, it is another sign of their poor vetting. In either event, Mr. Giampietro has shown himself unfit to serve a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.”

“Even compared to the anti-LGBT record of so many other Trump judicial nominees, Giampietro’s comments are appalling,” Marge Baker, the executive vice president of People for the American Way, said in a statement. “There’s no way that members of the LGBT community could expect fair treatment in a courtroom presided over by this nominee. Any senator who claims to care about equal justice should demand that Giampietro’s nomination be withdrawn.”

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