The Worst Judges On

LGBTQ Rights

Hostility to LGBTQ rights emerged early on as one of the most distinctive unifying features among Trump’s judicial nominees. The Senate has confirmed scores of judges who were previously lawyers on the front lines of fighting LGBTQ rights. As Lambda Legal concluded in its report, “Trump’s Judicial Assault on LGBT Protections: After Three Years of Trump Nominees, Bias and Bigotry Remain the Norm,” one in three nominees have deep histories of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
Below are 15 Trump judges who, at the time of their confirmation, had records opposing equal rights for LGBTQ Americans.

Andrew Brasher (Eleventh Circuit) filed a brief opposing marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. He also led other states in filing an amicus brief arguing that a photographer should be able to refuse to provide her services to a same-sex couple based on her personal opposition to same-sex marriage.

Kyle Duncan (Fifth Circuit) warned of “a rapid movement towards sort of general cultural acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual practices.” Duncan co-authored an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriage. He wrote elsewhere that if the Supreme Court recognized that same-sex marriage was a fundamental right, the “harms” to our democracy “would be severe, unavoidable, and irreversible.” Duncan also sought to deny same-sex couples adoption rights.

Britt Grant (Eleventh Circuit) assisted on an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriage. Grant opposed government guidance that called for transgender students to be permitted to use facilities that conform to their gender identity.

Steven Grasz (Eighth Circuit) supported a law that would allow employers to discriminate against LGBTQ persons. He was director of the Nebraska Family Alliance, which supports conversion therapy. As Chief Deputy Attorney General of Nebraska, Grasz opposed the recognition in Nebraska of same-sex marriages contracted in other states. Grasz also argued before the Nebraska Supreme Court that state law did not allow an unmarried lesbian couple to adopt a child.

James Ho (Fifth Circuit) defended Texas’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Matthew Kacsmaryk (Northern District of Texas) has written that, while the “Civil Rights Movement” was on “the right side of history,” the same cannot be said for efforts by LGBTQ persons to achieve equality.

Gregory Katsas (D.C. Circuit) defended the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in two cases and strongly opposed Obergefell.

Cory Wilson (Fifth Circuit) said that “gay marriage is a pander to liberal interest groups and an attempt to cast Republicans as intolerant, uncaring and even bigoted.” As a legislator, Wilson voted to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ persons.

Eric Murphy (Sixth Circuit) defended Ohio’s prohibition on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. During Murphy’s tenure as state solicitor, the state of Ohio joined an amicus brief defending a school board’s refusal to allow a transgender student to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity.

Howard Nielson (District of Utah) defended Proposition 8 in California, which would have banned same-sex marriage in California. After the district court ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Nielson filed a motion to vacate the judgment on the grounds that the judge was gay. Later on, Nielson authored an amicus brief opposing marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Mark Norris (Western District of Tennessee) supported legislation that prohibits cities in Tennessee from protecting LGBTQ people from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation. Norris cosponsored a joint resolution urging Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage exclusively as the “union of a man and a woman.”

Lee Rudofsky (Eastern District of Arkansas) defended Arkansas when two same-sex couples sued the state to require Arkansas to list the spouse of a birth mother, regardless of gender, as the second parent of their child on their birth certificate. He also fought a city ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and has authored or edited multiple articles justifying LGBTQ discrimination. He signed an amicus brief advocating that a florist has the right to refuse to serve a same-sex couple. At his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, he disavowed previous support for marriage equality.

Brantley Starr (Northern District of Texas) signed an opinion letter after Obergefell v. Hodges claiming that civil servants, including clerks, judges, and justices of the peace, could still refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also defended several bills in Texas that discriminate against gay couples in the adoption and foster care systems.

Lawrence VanDyke (Ninth Circuit), in an article for the Harvard Law Record, promoted the myth that same-sex marriage will harm children and society and that LGBTQ people are deviant and dangerous. While Solicitor General of Montana, he supported bans on same-sex marriage in other states. He also opposed laws protecting LGBTQ Americans from being discriminated against.

Don Willett (Fifth Circuit) disparaged the right of LGBTQ people to marriage equality, when he joked about wanting the “right to marry bacon” in a tweet. He also joked about California’s laws relating to transgender students’ participation in school sports. Willett has consistently ruled against same-sex marriage rights. In 2005, Willett attended a Texas Restoration Project event that the Austin Chronicle described as an event for then-Governor Rick Perry and “religious conservatives [to] get together to bash gays.”