A new report from the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal presents a sobering analysis of how the Trump judicial appointments will impact LGBTQ+ rights for at least the next generation. The report details the record number of judges Trump has appointed in just four years, shining light on the anti-LGBTQ+ views of many of them. Given that federal judges have a lifetime appointment and can only be removed via impeachment, the impact of their rulings will be long-lasting.
“While Donald Trump’s presidency may be coming to end, his devastating impact on our federal courts will take decades to reverse,” Kevin Jennings, chief executive officer at Lambda Legal, said in a 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.”
The findings of the report are deeply disturbing. 40 percent of the Trump administration’s confirmed appellate judges have a demonstrated history of hostility to the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, 85 percent of his circuit court nominees have had an affiliation with the Federalist Society, a right-wing organization which adheres to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution and has given platform to those advocating against marriage equality, LGBTQ+ workplace protections, and worse. His appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court was particularly concerning and impactful, given her history of homophobic remarks and association as a trustee from 2015 to 2017 with Trinity Schools in Virginia, which teaches that “homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”
Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments. While many will focus on Trump's three Supreme Court nominees, the real damage can be done at the lower court levels. The nation's top court hears only a select few cases per year, so decisions made in the lower courts can set precedent and, in effect, shape the decisions made elsewhere and going forward.
The Republican-held Senate led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Tennessee served as a near rubber stamp for the President’s judicial appointments — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham aided in this effort. Almost one-third of all circuit judgeships are now Trump appointees (54 out of 177 active judges), the result of his outpacing his last five predecessors in the number of judges confirmed. In fact, he confirmed only one less judge in four years than the Obama administration confirmed in eight.
The combined effect of the number of judges confirmed and the far-right nature of their beliefs is deeply concerning. Jennings hopes the report will be a wake-up call to the country and incoming administration to protect the LGBTQ+ community from the lasting Trump judicial legacy.
“This report should serve as a call to action for the incoming Biden Administration,” Jennings said. “To reverse the damage done by the outgoing administration, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris must commit to ensuring future nominees respect the dignity of all Americans, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”