Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups oppose 4th Circuit judicial nominee linked to anti-gay “hate group”

Equality advocates say Allison Jones Rushing's ties to anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom are concerning

Allison Jones Rushing – Photo: Williams & Connolly LLP.

LGBTQ civil rights organizations from Maryland and North Carolina have issued a warning to the Senate Judiciary Committee about President Trump’s most recent pick for a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lambda Legal, Equality North Carolina, and Free State Legal of Maryland have written a letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) expressing concerns that Allison Jones Rushing may have prejudicial views that would compromise her impartiality should she be called on to hear a case involving the LGBTQ community.

They claim that Rushing — a partner at Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, D.C. and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — “has expressed a deep hostility to the principles of equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law for LGBT Americans.”

The 4th Circuit covers Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In recent years, a number of cases involving LGBTQ rights, including parental recognition, transgender access to public accommodations, recognition of same-sex marriages, and even a challenge to President Trump’s ban on transgender service members have been heard in district or state supreme courts in that circuit.

Therefore, it would not be surprising to have Rushing, should she be confirmed, weighing in on similar disputes. 

“The record of this nominee reflects a deep hostility to the principles of equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law for LGBT Americans, among others,” the letter to Grassley and Feinstein reads. “Accordingly, we do not believe this nominee will provide impartial justice to LGBT people and their families, and therefore urge you to oppose her nomination.

“For example, Ms. Rushing publicly demonstrated her view that same-sex couples are not entitled to equal constitutional liberty in a presentation she gave addressing the Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” the letter continues. “In the presentation, Ms. Rushing criticized the Windsor majority for holding that DOMA’s codification of moral disapproval of marriage for same-sex couples is constitutionally impermissible and for relying on its prior holdings in Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans.

“Ms. Rushing criticized the Windsor majority’s constitutional reasoning for rejecting the Court’s prior stance of criminalizing same-sex relationships and forcing same-sex couples to live as vulnerable second-class citizens…. She thus demonstrated that she simply does not see LGBT people as deserving of equal freedom and protection under the Constitution and our laws, and would not be able to administer impartial justice to LGBT litigants.”

The LGBTQ groups also point to Rushing’s “career-long association” with Alliance Defending Freedom, a socially conservative organization that favors rolling back protections for LGBTQ people that has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Rushing began her career as a legal intern at ADF, and has made several presentations to ADF audiences over the years, which the LGBTQ groups maintain shows her commitment to the organization’s mission and that could compromise her impartiality.

“Even though the Senate is in recess until the midterm elections, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley continues to push right-wing extremists through the judicial pipeline,” Sharon McGowan, the legal director and chief strategy officer of Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“Fourth Circuit nominee Allison Rushing is just the latest in a long line of dangerous ideologues who are being rushed through with little opportunity for vetting or meaningful scrutiny of her record and her views,” McGowan said. “Her public denunciation of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision in United States v. Windsor, as well as her career-long association with the extremist anti-LGBT organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, cast serious doubt on any claim that she could provide fair and impartial justice to LGBT litigants who would appear before her. 

“We urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject Ms. Rushing’s nomination to the Fourth Circuit,” McGowan concluded. “Her confirmation would cause grave harm to LGBT people, as well as to all members of communities who rely on the federal judiciary of the United States to administer fair and impartial justice.”

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

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