Lambda Legal Report Reveals Anti-LGBTQ Records of Trump’s Judicial Nominees

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is among the president's anti-LGBTQ appointments.

Nearly half of the judges appointed by President Donald Trump have records of opposing LGBTQ rights, according to a new report from the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal.

Findings from the report, “Courts, Confirmations and Consequences: How Trump Restructured the Federal Judiciary and Ushered in a Climate of Unprecedented Hostility toward LGBTQ+ People and Civil Rights,” reveal that nearly 40 percent of Trump’s confirmed federal appellate judges have a history of anti-LGBTQ bias. To date, his administration has confirmed 54 out of 179 circuit court judges. Lambda Legal has opposed 22 of the 57 circuit court nominees nominated in the last four years due to their anti-LGBTQ record.

Overall, results show Trump’s judicial nominees have lacked diversity. A whopping 85 percent of Trump’s circuit court nominees are white and about 80 percent are men, the report shows. None of the circuit court nominees are Black and only two are Latinx.

To conduct this research, the organization tracked and monitored four years of Trump’s judicial appointments. The researchers then sifted through documents, which exposed the officials’ homophobic and transphobic background. 

Almost all of Trump’s circuit court nominees are or have been closely tied to the Federalist Society, an anti-LGBTQ conservative group that has advocated for removing parental rights from same-sex parents. The group has also argued against marriage equality and non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers.

Federal judges serve a lifelong term, meaning that the impact of Trump’s decisions will last long after he leaves office. 

“While Donald Trump’s presidency may be coming to end, his devastating impact on our federal courts will take decades to reverse,” Kevin Jennings, CEO at Lambda Legal, said in a written statement. “When the basic human rights of LGBTQ+ Americans are so often challenged in court, we cannot accept a judiciary stacked with judges who would disenfranchise these vulnerable groups.”

Trump has appointed new judges at a faster rate than the last five presidential administrations, the report shows. Just weeks before the presidential election, the Trump administration appointed Amy Coney Barrett — who has ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom — to the US Supreme Court.

“The most obvious and egregious display of this is the fact that they forced through the nomination while a national election was already underway,” Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s legal director, told Gay City News. “President Trump was able to move through as many Court of Appeals nominees in one term as President Obama was able to do in two.” 

These decisions will make it even more challenging for voters to reshape the federal courts, she said. 

“It’s distorting the way in which people should be able to count on their vote,” McGowan said. “If people were selecting President Biden because they trusted him to put good people in the judiciary, his ability to do that has sort of been overtaken… by the fact that Trump and the Senate Republicans ran the table and made sure there were no slots left for him to fill.” 

Trump-nominated judges wrote opinions that targeted LGBTQ folks in different areas, including healthcare protections. Judge James Ho, appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, penned an opinion rejecting healthcare to a trans woman, according to the report.  When Cory Wilson, who was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, was a state lawmaker in Mississippi, he supported a law giving businesses the ability to deny service to queer and unmarried folks if they had a “sincerely held religious belief,” the report noted.

Judges appointed by Trump to the Eleventh Circuit have eliminated local laws protecting LGBTQ minors from conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice claiming to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Ultimately, experts noted that a Biden-Harris administration could begin unraveling Trump’s legacy, but it will take focus.  

“The Biden administration should make this a very high priority,” McGowan said. “They should be working closely with civil rights organizations and other people who care about the rule of law to make sure they are putting forth strong nominees who can serve in some manner as a corrective to what we’ve seen in the last four years.” 

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