Among Scores of Trump-Pence’s Anti-LGBTQ Nominees, HRC Spotlights Five Who Represent Greatest Threat

by Stephen Peters

Two of these five dangerous nominees — Steven Grasz and Mark Norris — are scheduled for votes Thursday

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, aimed a bright spotlight on five federal judicial nominees — Jeff Mateer, Damien Schiff, Leonard Steven Grasz, Mark Norris, and Stephen Schwartz. If confirmed by the Senate, the nominees could seriously threaten the future of LGBTQ equality in America. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Grasz and Norris on Thursday.

“In their crusade against the LGBTQ community, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are doing everything they can to stack our federal courts and all agencies of the government with anti-LGBTQ nominees and appointments,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the progress we’ve made and weave discrimination into every part of our government. There are scores of under-qualified nominees with terrible anti-equality records, and Jeff Mateer, Damien Schiff, Leonard Steven Grasz, Mark Norris, and Stephen Schwartz are among the worst of the worst. The Senate must reject their nominations to lifetime appointments to the federal bench.”

In less than one year, the Trump-Pence Administration has unleashed a torrent of attacks on the LGBTQ community and undermined the rights of millions of Americans. Through rollbacks, rescissions, and re-interpretations, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have systematically and meticulously eroded years of progress and protections. What’s more, Trump and Pence have appointed and nominated scores of extreme and unqualified anti-LGBTQ officials to crucial agencies and court benches — some of whom will serve lifetime appointments.

Jeff Mateer has been nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In a 2015 speech titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Jeff Mateer objected to a transgender student using a restroom consistent with her gender identity, saying “I mean it just really shows you how Satan's plan is working and the destruction that's going on.” He defended then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s ‘license-to-discriminate’ bill and objected to efforts to alter the legislation. Mateer fought against non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community in Plano and San Antonio, Texas, and he even supports the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” Mateer also claimed that marriage equality will lead to bestiality.

Damien Schiff, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, has been unabashed in his anti-LGBTQ views. He called Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute,” opposed anti-bullying policies, opposed the decriminalization of same-sex relationships, and has been a longtime critic of marriage equality. In his writings, Schiff has encouraged parents to opt out of public schools in response to new curriculum that discouraged LGBTQ bullying and normalized families with same-sex parents; opposed the Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing same-sex relationships; defended supporters of Prop 8, falsely claiming same-sex couples had the same legal benefits as married opposite-sex couples before Prop 8.

L. Steven Grasz, nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, served on the board of a non-profit that backed the abusive practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors and was unwilling to clarify his own views during his confirmation hearing. Grasz said that language protecting people on the basis of “sexual orientation” opened the door for protections for pedophiles and argued Nebraska should not recognize marriage equality in other states. Grasz also opposed allowing same-sex parents to adopt. The American Bar Association has deemed Grasz unqualified to serve in the position Trump has nominated him for.

Mark S. Norris has been nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Currently the Senate Majority Leader of the Tennessee General Assembly, Norris has voted to support legislation giving business a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people and supported a state law preventing local municipalities from passing LGBTQ non-discrmination protections. Among a host of other positions supporting discrimination, Norris opposed federal guidance from the Obama administration helping to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment in public schools.  

Stephen Schwartz, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, has a demonstrable anti-LGBTQ record. HRC joined in an opposition letter with 27 LGBTQ groups, including Lambda Legal and the National Center for Transgender Equality, opposing Schwartz. His work opposing equality includes defending North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2. He also notably served as co-counsel to the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia after it was sued by transgender student Gavin Grimm for discrimination. Grimm challenged the school board in court for denying him use of the boy’s restroom.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.


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