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Trump Is Making the Courts Into a Horrorshow for LGBTQ+ People

Trump Is Making the Courts Into a Horrorshow for LGBTQ+ People

Trump Is Making the Courts Into a Horrorshow for LGBTQ+ People

The Senate recently confirmed an openly LGBTQ+ judge, but Trump's judicial appointees have been no friends to the community.

On July 31, 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed Mary Rowland by voice vote to be a United States District Court Judge in the Northern District of Illinois located in Chicago, making her the first openly LGBTQ+ judge who has been confirmed during this administration.

Judge Rowland's confirmation is welcome news. She is an accomplished lawyer and a well-qualified judicial nominee. She previously worked as a U.S. Magistrate Judge, was the head of appeals for the Federal Defender's Office, and before that worked as a civil rights lawyer -- including involvement with Lambda Legal. She was rated as "Well Qualified" by the American Bar Association (ABA) and Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth praised her integrity and judgment.

It is impossible, however, to praise the Trump administration. Judge Rowland's confirmation stands in stark contrast to this administration's overall record on judicial nominees -- most of whom are young, ultraconservative, straight white men, many with questionable qualifications and most with disturbing records on civil rights.

Judge Rowland's confirmation will help inspire public confidence in the fairness and legitimacy of the court in Chicago because she reflects the community that she will serve. But the vast majority of Trump's judicial nominees do not. Over half the U.S. population is female and in addition to other ethnic minorities, almost 30 percent of the country identifies as Latino or African-American. Also, LGBTQ+ people make up an estimated 4.5 percent of the population. Despite this rich and growing diversity, almost 80 percent of Trump's confirmed judges are male and around 90 percent of them are white, and no other openly LGBTQ+ nominees have been confirmed.

A serious absence of judicial diversity causes a biased federal judiciary system that both reduces access to justice and exacerbates perceptions that the courts are unfair, which in turn reduces many people's willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and the justice system.

What is even worse, many of Trump's nominees also have long records of expressing hostility towards LGBTQ+ people. In fact, one out of three circuit court nominees has a demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ+ bias. These include Stuart Kyle Duncan, who now sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He argued that transgender people are delusional and threatened that marriage equality would "imperil civic peace." And there is L. Steven Grasz, who now sits on the Eighth Circuit. He was rated "Not Qualified" by the ABA after it determined Grasz would be unable to set aside his personal beliefs about transgender people in order to administer impartial justice.

There also have been many federal trial court nominees who have expressed extreme anti-LGBTQ+ hostilities, such as Jeff Mateer, nominated to the Eastern District of Texas, who described transgender children as "part of Satan's plan." Gordon Giampietro, nominated to the Eastern District of Wisconsin, opined that marriage quality would undermine marriage by reducing it to a "sex act" that could lead to brother-sister marriage. While those two nominees were rejected thanks in part to Lambda Legal's advocacy, recently, the Senate shockingly confirmed Matthew Kacsmaryk for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench in Texas, despite his having made a career of litigating against LGBTQ+ legal equality, and having compared LGBTQ+ people to silly putty, "unconstrained by nature and biology."

LGBTQ+ rights are the subject of frequent litigation in federal courts across the country -- and there are many cases coming up the pipeline. While I applaud the confirmation of Judge Rowland, the glaring lack of diversity and the overt biases of so many of this administration's nominees towards the LGBTQ+ community remain stark and should alarm everyone concerned about the integrity of our federal courts as places where all people are entitled to fair and impartial treatment under the law.

Sasha Buchert is a Senior Attorney in the Washington D.C. office of Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest organization dedicated to advancing the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and individuals living with HIV.

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Sasha Buchert