Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups blast Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Critics say president's pick for the Supreme Court is an ideologically driven choice that could endanger LGBTQ rights

President Trump signs Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court – Photo: Dan Scavino Jr., via Wikimedia.

LGBTQ groups are slamming President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be the nation’s next Supreme Court justice.

They argue that he will endanger the progress made over the past few years on LGBTQ equality and will shift the court in a rightward direction for at least two generations.

“Judge Kavanaugh would guarantee 40 more years of Trump’s values on the Supreme Court,” Rachel B. Tiven, the CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “Like every other judicial nominee who has a seal of approval from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, Judge Kavanaugh shares Donald Trump’s same distorted view of the law.

“We have good reason to fear that Judge Kavanaugh will abuse his power on the Court to protect the wealthy and the powerful while depriving LGBT Americans of our dignity, demeaning our community, and diminishing our status as equal citizens,” Tiven added. “There is too much at stake to allow Judge Kavanaugh to sit on the Court that, over its history, has decided who can marry, who can vote, and who is equal.”

She also noted that Kavanaugh has previously opined that presidents should not be subject to civil or criminal charges while in office — a startling claim, especially considering that Trump is under investigation — and that a president does not need to follow the law if he thinks the law is unconstitutional. Tiven also vowed that Lambda Legal would push Democrats to oppose any hearing or vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until after the 2018 midterm elections, given the effect that his confirmation could have on the court for years to come, and the need for oversight and scrutiny that Republicans seem unwilling to provide when it comes to Trump’s judicial nominees.

The Human Rights Campaign also blasted the nomination, saying that selecting Kavanaugh was proof that Trump “has followed through on his threat to nominate a justice who would undermine LGBTQ equality, women’s reproductive rights and affordable healthcare.”

“Now, the Senate has a responsibility to fulfill its constitutional duty, serve as a check on this reckless president and reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “This nominee was hand-picked by anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice groups in an explicit effort to undermine equality — and the prospect of a Justice Kavanaugh threatens to erode our nation’s civil rights laws, block transgender troops from bravely serving this nation and allow a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people in every aspect of American life.”

Griffin also issued a warning to any American citizen to the left-of-center, but particularly LGBTQ people, that voting in November would be essential to reigning in the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine equality in a host of areas.

“The 2018 midterm elections just became the most consequential elections of our lifetime, and we must seize the opportunity to pull the emergency brake on this regime,” Griffin said. “We need to vote this November like our lives depend on it — because they do.”

Transgender Law Center Deputy Director Isa Noyola called Kavanaugh a “divisive, radical conservative” whose appointment would threaten the rights of transgender people, as well as communities of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.

“The person who fills this seat will likely have a deciding vote on issues like health care, reproductive justice, and transgender people’s freedom to be our authentic selves and participate in public life, so our lives hang in the balance,” Noyola said. “Transgender Law Center demands that the Senate reject Kavanaugh and we urge our community to call their Senators to oppose the nomination.”

Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued that any attempt by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to reverse precedent would have a significant impact on LGBTQ rights as decided in cases like Romer v. EvansLawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges would be “unthinkable.” But he also said that the potential harm that the court could wreak upon LGBTQ people and their families is a real threat that should not be dismissed out of hand, and urged those concerned about LGBTQ equality to vote in November to provide a check on President Trump’s anti-LGBTQ agenda.

“To date, there is nothing in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record to indicate that he understands the real-world impact of discrimination on LGBT people or the importance of construing our nation’s laws to enable them to participate fully and equally in society,” Minter said in a statement. “The Supreme Court must be a court for all, not just for the privileged few.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, noted that the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council previously supported Kavanaugh when he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She also pointed to the well-documented role that anti-LGBTQ organizations, including the Federalist Society — to which Kavanaugh belongs — and the Heritage Foundation, have played in advising President Trump when it comes to both Supreme Court and lower court nominations. 

“If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will have the chance to codify President Trump and Vice President Pence’s dangerous anti-LGBTQ record and the agenda of anti-LGBTQ groups into law for decades to come,” she said. “Like Neil Gorsuch before him, Kavanaugh is an ideologically driven pick designed to create an activist Supreme Court that will undermine rights and protections for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all vulnerable people. Americans do not want or need 40 more years of Trump’s values.”

For its part, the Family Research Council praised Kavanaugh’s selection, saying he’d prove to be a strict constitutionalist and urging the Senate to confirm him immediately.

“From the day Justice Kennedy retired, the Left has sought to make this vacancy all about abortion — even though many other significant issues are at stake including religious freedom and free speech,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “Under the Obama administration, we saw a growing assault on religious freedom and the courts became a battleground for secularists seeking to remove faith from the public square.   Judge Kavanaugh resisted this trend in at least two instances — an HHS contraceptive mandate case and in an opinion supporting inauguration prayers.”

The Centennial Institute, a conservative think tank at Colorado Christian University, offered similar praise for Kavanaugh’s record, comparing him to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Although the organization did not specifically talk about LGBTQ rights in its statement, it did praise the court’s decision to order lower courts to reconsider whether anti-Christian bias had played a role in their previous decisions in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

“As we saw in the case of Jack Phillips, owner of Denver’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Supreme Court has been a stalwart guardian of our founding principles, including religious liberty,” Jeff Hunt, Colorado Christian University’s Vice President for Public Policy, said in a statement. “It is a strategic priority of Colorado Christian University to advance the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Kavanaugh will do just that. We call on the Senate to begin confirmation hearings and schedule a vote on the nomination.”

The embrace of Kavanaugh’s nomination by right-wing groups has many on the political left concerned.

“Donald Trump was clear about what he was looking for in a Supreme Court nominee, and Brett Kavanaugh fills the bill,” Michael Keegan, the president of People For the American Way, said in a statement calling the judge an “elitist.”

“Make no mistake: Judge Kavanaugh wasn’t chosen because of his experience or his life story; he was chosen as a gift to right-wing activists who have spent decades working to take over the Supreme Court to push their own extreme agenda,” Keegan added, noting that Kavanaugh’s has dissented from adhering to judicial precedent more times than any other judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would roll back the clock on rulings that protect women, people of color, workers and the LGBTQ community,” Keegan said. “No Senator who cares about protecting equality or justice can support Brett Kavanaugh. In fact, no senator concerned about our Court being radically reshaped can vote to confirm this nominee.”

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