Trump's Federal Judicial Nominees’ Anti-LGBTQ Comments Are Deeply Alarming

by HRC Staff

John Bush and Damien Schiff refused to answer questions about their personal beliefs on these deeply important LGBTQ issues.

Post submitted by Brian McBride, former HRC Digital Strategist 

Two of President Trump’s federal judicial nominees John Bush and Damien Schiff have made deeply alarming comments against significant LGBTQ decisions made by the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Bush, who was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, has criticized rulings striking down sodomy laws targeting LGBTQ people; while Schiff, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, has been a longtime opponent of marriage equality and opposed anti-bullying policies.

Although both men stated before the Senate Judiciary Committee that their decisions were based according to law and not their personal beliefs, they refused to answer questions about their personal beliefs on these deeply important LGBTQ issues. As part of the nominations process, Bush and Schiff were asked to respond to additional questions for the record in writing. Here are some of the  alarming comments they submitted:

Schiff against Lawrence V. Texas:

Lawrence v. Texas was the Supreme Court’s 2003 landmark decision striking down Texas’s sodomy law as unconstitutional. In a blogpost, he expressed disagreement with the decision because he could not reconcile it with an originalist approach:

“The basis for the strong disagreement noted in the referenced blog post was my view, at that time, that Lawrence would be difficult to reconcile with an originalist understanding of the Constitution.”

Schiff criticizes state court ruilings protecting LGBTQ people:

He said he criticized the California court’s application of laws targeting LGBTQ people because it was divisive and polarizing:

“My comment that the court’s adoption of heightened scrutiny on the basis of sexual orientation would have far-ranging effects was focused on how the issue would continue to be divisive and polarizing.”

Schiff refuses to state validity of same-sex relationships:

When asked about his personal opinion of Obergefell v. Hodges -- the landmark Supreme Court that made marriage equality law of the law -- Schiff refused to say whether same-sex couples were morally equivalent to opposite sex couples:

“The Supreme Court has held that same-sex couples have the same access to legal marriage as do opposite-sex couples… To the extent that the question seeks my personal views, I should like to respond, respectfully, that those would not be relevant to my role as a judge.”

Schiff said schools should not condone same-sex relationships in their curriculum:

He tried to backtrack and expressed regret on a blogpost he wrote titled “Teaching Gayness in Public Schools,” in which he opposed schools teaching about the “morality” of same sex relationships:

“By teaching ‘gayness,’ I meant the concept of a school going beyond teaching that bullying, for any reason, is bad, and instead extending its curriculum into teaching about the morality of physical intimacy by persons of the same sex.”

Bush defends using anti-LGBTQ slur in 2005 speech:

He defended his decision to use a homophobic slur in a 2005 speech that quoted the author Hunter S. Thompson.

"I believed that the quotation served as a powerful example of literary criticism of Louisville. Indeed, I noted in the speech that Thompson used the slur to “target” Louisville. I did not agree with the implication of Thompson’s quote that Louisville is an intolerant place, and I do not consider Thompson to be a “great writer”, though he perhaps aspired to be."

Bush doesn’t fully commit Obergefell as settled law:

He refused to personally weigh into the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and only stated that the decision is “settled” as a Supreme Court precedent and “binding upon all lower courts”:

“I have not had occasion to study this decision of the Supreme Court in light of any methodology of constitutional interpretation. If confirmed to the Sixth Circuit, I would apply Obergefell faithfully, as I would any precedent of the Supreme Court.”

HRC has called on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to reject these nominees. Bush and Schiff are truly unfit to serve in our federal courts and pose a serious threat to LGBTQ people and minority communities across the nation.