Post submitted by Corey Garlick, McCleary Law Fellow
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Trump nominees Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Joan Larsen for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and Eric Dreiband for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. All have records that raise concerns about how they would protect the civil rights of all Americans - including and especially LGBTQ people.
Two days ago, HRC in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee outlined its concerns regarding Dreiband’s nomination to a position that would make him a key player in enforcing and protecting our nation’s civil rights laws. Dreiband has consistently worked to weaken key civil rights protections, specifically employment protections, and advocated against civil rights legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination.
Amy Coney Barrett
HRC has also been monitoring Barrett’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit because of her writings and speeches prioritizing faith over the rule of law. For example, in a 2013 speech, Barrett said that “the Constitution does not expressly protect a right to privacy.” This is extremely important to LGBTQ individuals because the right to privacy, established in Griswold v. Connecticut and later relied on in Roe v. Wade, helped lead the way for LGBTQ equality. During the hearing, Barrett was questioned about her 1998 law review article, Catholic Judges in Capital Cases, in which she argues that Catholic judges have a duty to prioritize faith over legal precedent. Barrett did not provide a clear answer about whether her writing indicates how she would rule from the bench.
Senator Al Franken (D-MN), a longtime HRC supporter, questioned Barrett’s paid speech for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for ADF’s anti-LGBTQ position. Barrett said that she knew and respected both students and faculty of the ADF-sponsored Blackstone Legal Fellowship program. The ADF is the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ legal group with thousands of lawyers working to pass hateful, discriminatory laws throughout the country.
HRC is also concerned with Larsen’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit because of her refusal, along with four other Michigan Supreme Court justices, to hear an appeal of Mabry v. Mabry, a case involving the parental rights of a non-biological parent. The refusal came after the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015 recognized marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. By refusing to hear the appeal, Larsen essentially rejected the full effect of Obergefell.
Finally, HRC joined in an opposition letter with 27 LGBTQ groups, including Lambda Legal and the National Center for Transgender Equality, opposing Stephen Schwartz, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Like many of Trump’s other judicial and executive nominees, Schwartz has a demonstrable anti-LGBTQ record, including his work defending North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2. Moreover, he served as co-counsel to the Gloucester County (VA) School Board after it was sued by transgender student Gavin Grimm. Grimm alleged that the board violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom.