This week, we learned that the nomination of Jeff Mateer, who infamously referred to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan,” will not be moving forward in the Senate. That’s great news. But the bad news is that other troubling nominees are moving through the Judiciary Committee with terrifying speed. Take Stuart Kyle Duncan, nominated to a lifetime seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:
- Duncan has taken several litigation positions supporting the use of religious beliefs to deny women access to birth control. He believes a boss’s religious beliefs should be able to override a woman’s rights to insurance coverage of birth control, and played a major role in cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, including representing craft store chain Hobby Lobby in its court challenge. And he wrote a brief arguing pharmacies must be allowed to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.
- He wrote a brief presenting widely discredited medical views meant to support the Texas abortion restrictions struck down by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health.
- Over the years, he has taken a significant number of litigation positions hostile to same-sex couples, including defending Louisiana’s Defense of Marriage Act; arguing that a woman who had adopted the children of her same-sex partner, with whom she had raised the children for eight years, should be denied parental rights; defending Louisiana when the state refused to issue a birth certificate for a child adopted by a same-sex couple; and filing an amicus brief opposing marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges.
- He represented the Gloucester County School Board in litigation challenging its policy that bars transgender students from restrooms that match their gender. According to a letter signed by 35 LGBTQ groups, the brief he wrote “deployed offensive and baseless ‘gender fraud’ arguments, suggesting that schools were entitled to refuse to respect a student’s gender identity in order to ‘prevent[ ] athletes who were born male from opting onto female teams, obtaining competitive advantages and displacing girls and women’—a myth that has not materialized across hundreds of school districts with nondiscriminatory policies over many years.”
- He has spoken repeatedly before the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in part because it “has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.”
This is maybe a good time to remind ourselves that the courts are critically important in women’s lives – they play a key role defining the contours of important statutes, upholding our constitutional rights, and enforcing protections against discrimination. Duncan’s record raises some serious questions about how he would wield that power. And he is one of many Trump nominees with a record of seeking to curtail women’s access to reproductive health care and LGBTQ rights. Putting dangerous ideologues on the federal bench puts those rights at risk – and can impact the lives of women and girls for generations. Trump has already had more circuit court judges confirmed in the first year of his presidency than any President since Nixon – the Judiciary Committee shouldn’t hesitate to put on the brakes as we round the bend to 2018.