Architect of Administration’s Anti-LGBT Agenda Has No Place on Powerful DC Circuit Court

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November 27, 2017
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Gregory Katsas after giving remarks at the Supreme Court in 2012.
Photo by: C-SPAN
Gregory Katsas after giving remarks at the Supreme Court in 2012.

Lambda Legal urged the United States Senate to reject the nomination of Deputy White House Counsel Gregory Katsas to the powerful U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A vote on Katsas’ nomination is expected this evening.

Last week, Lambda Legal brought together 40 other national, state, and local LGBT organizations to send a letter to the full chamber urging members to oppose Katsas’s nomination, citing his central role in the anti-civil rights efforts of the Donald Trump administration, including “morphing the trans military ban from tweet to policy,” as well as his record outside the administration of “litigation seeking to dismantle legal protections for LGBT people,” all of which together make it impossible for him to be viewed as a fair and impartial judge.

Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, Sharon McGowan, issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump has boasted that he intends to reshape the federal courts in his image, and the nomination of one of his senior lawyers, Gregory Katsas, brings him one step closer to achieving that goal. As Deputy White House Counsel, Katsas has been working behind the scenes to help Donald Trump and Mike Pence implement their anti-LGBT, anti-woman, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant agenda. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has historically served as an important check on the executive branch, but everything about Katsas’ record suggests that he would be exactly the kind of judge Donald Trump wants: a rubber stamp. For this reason, Lambda Legal has brought together scores of national, state and local LGBT organizations, and joins numerous other civil rights groups in calling on the United States Senate to reject this nomination.

“The damage that is being done to our judiciary cannot be overstated. Courts play a vital role in safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups, including LGBT people, but courts only work when judges are fair, independent and open-minded. Those are not words that come to mind when considering the nomination of President Trump’s lawyer and confidant, Gregory Katsas.

“But this is about much more than one particular judicial nomination, however problematic he may be. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has demonstrated that he is willing discard longstanding Senate traditions, and has run roughshod over members of his own party to push these judicial nominations through at breakneck speed. Later this week, the Senate Judiciary will once again stage a packed hearings with multiple nominees to the federal bench, thus limiting the opportunity for public scrutiny of their records. And this is no accident. David Stras and Stuart Kyle Duncan, who have been nominated for the court of appeals, and Matthew Kacsmaryk, selected for a federal district court judgeship, have denied the legitimacy of our relationships, taken aim at our families, and declared open season on our children. We deserve better and demand better, and our Senators must take a stand against these dangerous nominees so that our courts are not destroyed for generations to come.”

The full letter that Lambda Legal and 40 other LGBT groups sent to the U.S. Senate last week outlines Katsas’ positions and record, illustrating how his nomination “poses a grave threat to the communities” that the organizations serve, specifically as deputy counsel in Donald Trump’s White House Counsel’s office. In this position, “Mr. Katsas has been a legal architect behind several of the Trump administration’s most odious actions and policies targeting the LGBT community,” including implementing the trans military ban and helping Jeff Sessions and Betsy Devos revoke federal guidelines that protect transgender students from discrimination.

The organizations also note that “while his recent anti-LGBT legal work has been prolific, Mr. Katsas is not new to opposing LGBT rights.” He is notably anti-marriage equality, having defended the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman and was declared unconstitutional in 2013. He also has suggested that same-sex couples are lesser parents than different-sex couples, saying that “it seems to me pretty self-evident, but at least a debatable point, that the other things equal the best arrangement for a child is to be raised by both of the child’s biological parents which by definition have to be one man and one woman.”

The letter also emphasizes the fact that Donald Trump has nominated one of his own deputy counsels to the D.C. Circuit, and in doing so “the President has made the startling leap of attempting to place a member of his own legal team on a court that historically has played a critical role in checking Executive excess.”

The letter was sent to the entire United States Senate last week ahead of the Chamber’s expected confirmation vote today.

The full letter can be found here.