Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups: Writings of 9th Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds are “disqualifying”

Writings from Ryan Bounds' college years reveal hostility towards communities of color and LGBTQ people

Ryan Bounds – Photo: Facebook.

A coalition of 32 LGBTQ organizations has written a letter to U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asking them to reject the nomination of federal prosecutor Ryan Bounds to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The letter, signed by a number of national, state, and local LGBTQ organizations, asks Grassley and Feinstein, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to oppose Bounds because of past writings expressing hostility towards the LBGTQ community and people of color, and because of his overall “lack of judgment.”

The letter cites multiple examples of writings by Bounds when he was the opinions editor of the Stanford University Review. Bounds wrote that activism from “overly-sensitive” racial minorities and LGBTQ people would lead to a “pestilence” that “stalks us” and “threatens to corrupt our scholastic experience.”

For example, Bounds claimed that students offended by “nerdy Asian” stereotypes were the result of “sensitivity, finely tuned by years of multiculturalism.”

He also adds that efforts by non-white students who “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns…seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance, and pigeonholing cultural identities than many a Nazi bookburning.”

Bounds frequently wrote about racial sensitivity and bemoaned what he felt were attacks against white males, rejecting the idea that there was any systematic racism whatsoever.

Following the vandalism of a gay pride statute by athletes, Bounds expressed concern about the athletes’ rights, and criticized the university’s decision to provide financial support for the on-campus LGBT center as a result of the incident.

In yet another commentary, Bounds criticized allowing campus officials to address incidents of sexual assault except in those cases where there is sufficient evidence that would prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that any assault occurred.

In that piece, he worried about the lack of protections for those who might be falsely accused of rape, alleging that false accusations are rampant and dismissing the idea that a victim might be reticent to come forward and report a rape or assault.

“Mr. Bounds’ disturbing writings on these subjects not only shed light on his personal views, but also demonstrate a temperament and lack of judgment that renders him fundamentally unsuitable for a lifetime position of public trust on the federal bench, the letter reads. 

The LGBTQ groups criticize Bounds for failing to disclose the writings to the Oregon bipartisan judicial commission, questioning his candor and “willingness to adhere to the rule of law even when it leads to results with which he is personally uncomfortable.”

They also argue that, even though the writings were done more than 20 years ago, similar controversies have been used by Republicans in the past to block judicial nominees. And even more importantly, those writings indicate feelings or opinions that Bounds once held — and may still, given that he’s never explicitly disavowed his past comments.

“[T]hese views were not merely expressed in casual dorm-room conversation,” the letter reads. “Rather, Mr. Bounds used his platform as the opinions editor at one of the country’s most prestigious universities to advance these disparaging views about LGBT people, people of color, and sexual assault advocates. More importantly, however, it is far from clear that Mr. Bounds’ views on these issues have, in fact, changed in any material way…. Consequently, any attempt to dismiss these writings as merely some youthful transgressions is disingenuous at best.”

Finally, the LGBTQ groups point that Bounds, a native Oregonian, does not have the support of either of his home state senators — which historically would have denied him a committee hearing, let alone a confirmation vote. They urge the Judiciary Committee to honor the “blue-slip process,” by which a nominee’s home state senators have a say over whether a nomination moves forward.

By moving ahead with Mr. Bounds’ nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee disrespects not only the individual Senators whose concerns are being overridden, but also undermines the credibility of the Senate as an institution,” the groups write. “The Senate’s constitutional duty to provide meaningful advice and consent is being cast aside in favor of a highly partisan effort to pack the courts with nominees whose records are replete with disturbing and disqualifying information (when the nominees even deign to disclose such information at all).”

Sharon McGowan, the director of strategy at Lambda Legal, which signed onto the letter, echoed concerns about the Trump administration’s attempt to stack the courts with conservative ideologues who hold discriminatory views. 

“The American people want judges who will protect everyone’s rights and freedoms, no matter who you are or where you come from — not columnists who trivialize the pain and suffering of minorities,” McGowan said in a statement. “President Trump has effectively purchased 10 percent of the real estate in our federal appellate court system and he hopes to add to his growing monopoly with the nomination of Mr. Bounds, another nominee with a record replete with explicit anti-LGBT bias.”

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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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