President Donald Trump, looking for a spark in his re-election campaign, is trying to fire up religious conservatives with a new shortlist of anti-LGBTQ judges and other officials he is vowing to choose from in any appointments to the United States Supreme Court if he gets another term in the White House.
Trump’s list, featuring 20 potential picks, includes three deeply conservative Republican US senators — Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Ted Cruz of Texas — as well as numerous US Circuit Court of Appeals judges like Allison Jones Rushing of the Fourth Circuit, Kyle Duncan and James Ho of the Fifth Circuit, Bridget Bade and Lawrence VanDyke of the Ninth Circuit, Law, and Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit.
The list also includes Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muñiz, and deputy White House counsel Kate Todd, among others.
President, behind in the polls, touts slate of potential nominees to rally conservative base
The senators are the most visible names on a list that was released just weeks before an election — and those lawmakers have been known for rejecting LGBTQ rights causes across the board. Cruz has strongly opposed marriage equality and non-discrimination protections, and once criticized inclusive bathroom policies for transgender and non-binary students as “lunacy.” Hawley, meanwhile, said the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bostock case earlier this year — which recognized employment non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act — “represents the end of the conservative legal movement.”
Cotton, who said this year that slavery “was the necessary evil upon which the union was built,” similarly opposes the usual queer rights causes and made headlines back in 2015 when he said opponents of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law offering broad exemptions from LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections should have a “sense of perspective” because “in Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”
LGBTQ and progressive legal groups tore into Trump immediately following his announcement. Lambda Legal slammed the president for propping up anti-LGBTQ and “extremist judges.”
“This list is teeming with individuals who have alarming anti-LGBTQ and anti-civil rights records, which should be disqualifying for any judicial nominee, let alone a nominee for the Supreme Court,” Sharon McGowan, legal director and chief strategy officer at Lambda Legal, said in a written statement. “Notably, the President’s ‘litmus test’ for SCOTUS nominees seems to have demanded zealous opposition to abortion and common sense gun control measures, as well as an unrelenting commitment to destroying the Affordable Care Act and a deep hostility to LGBTQ equality.”
Alliance for Justice, a progressive judicial avocacy group, also criticized the president’s list and specifically called out his decision to add VanDyke in light of his anti-LGBTQ bias, as well as Judge Sarah Pitlyk of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, who has a record of opposing abortion rights. The group also called out Duncan, who previously was general counsel for the anti-LGBTQ Becket Fund for Religious Liberty before Trump nominated him to the Fifth Circuit.
“If there’s one thing this president doesn’t lie about, it’s his eagerness to stack the courts with extremists prepared to carry out Republicans’ conservative agenda, overturning access to health care and abortion,” Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron said in a written statement. “We know this to be true from his nominations of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and the more than 200 lower court judges he’s already nominated. Nominees like Sarah Pitlyk and Kyle Duncan would further erode the norms of our justice system, our civil rights, and the protections many Americans take for granted.”
Aron further described Trump’s new list as “a last-ditch effort by the president to energize his base.”
Trump’s announcement on September 9 marked the fourth time since 2016 that he pitched a list of potential SCOTUS picks; he unveiled two lists before he was first elected and two since beccoming president. If re-elected, it would not be a major surprise if he nominates one of the potential judges he considered in previous lists. Those lists also featured hard-right conservatives including Trump’s eventual nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
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