Lambda Legal to Senate: Indecent, Extremist, Anti-LGBT Nominees Have No Place on the Federal Bench

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Lambda Legal Also Urges Senate Judiciary to Turn Back Nomination of Anti-LGBT Crusader Matthew Kacsmaryk Ahead of Hearing Today
December 13, 2017

Washington, DC – Following the confirmation of unqualified Leonard Steven Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit last night, the United States Senate is preparing to put two more of Donald Trump’s extreme, anti-LGBT judicial nominees on the federal bench this week, beginning with of Don Willett to the Fifth Circuit today and James Ho to the same court tomorrow. Yesterday, Lambda Legal brought together 34 other national, state, and local LGBT groups to oppose the nomination of Willett in a letter to the full Senate chamber, citing their “grave doubts concerning his ability to impartially interpret the law and serious concerns about his strict approach to judicial review of economic regulations that would impact LGBT workers and all workers.”  Lambda Legal has also expressed grave concerns about the ability of James Ho to give a fair hearing to LGBT Americans in light of his history of advocating against their right to equal protection of their relationships and families under the law.

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee is also pushing forward with another anti-LGBT nominee to the federal bench by holding a hearing on the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas. In a separate letter sent last month to the Judiciary Committee, Lambda Legal and 34 other LGBT groups opposed Kacsmaryk’s nomination, noting that he is “an anti-LGBT activist whose history of targeting those who do not live according to his particular social and religious beliefs calls into doubt his ability to administer fair and impartial justice.”

Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, issued the following statement:
“Yesterday, voters in Alabama rejected a candidate who was peddling a message of hate, fear and division, as did the voters in Virginia just a few weeks ago. Every Senator should listen to the message that these voters are sending, and get back into the business of serving the interests of all Americans, which means standing up against Donald Trump’s destructive agenda and preserving our courts as a place where all people can receive fair and impartial justice. We were disappointed yesterday to see the Senate Republicans line up in lockstep to confirm Steven Grasz to the Eighth Circuit by the thinnest of margins – a margin that may shrink even further when Doug Jones joins the Senate. But the preservation of our courts should not be a partisan issue. Everyone who relies on a fair and impartial judicial system to protect their rights is depending on the Senate to start doing its job. Senators ignore this message from the American people at their peril. 

“There are multiple opportunities this week for the Senate to change course, and for Senate Republicans to show that they care more about people than party. In particular, we call upon the Senate to reject the nominations of extremist, anti-LGBT nominees Don Willett and James Ho, who have showed hostility towards our rights, our families, and our children, and whose records call into serious question their ability to administer fair and impartial justice. It is just as critical that the Senate Judiciary stop being a rubber stamp for each and every one of Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, without a care for how anti-LGBT, anti-women, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, or anti-civil rights their records have been proven. That begins today when they will have the opportunity to sound the alarm on Matthew Kacsmaryk's nomination – a nominee who has no judicial experience and is an anti-LGBT activist with a long history of targeting those who do not live according to his personal social and religious beliefs ­– and demand better from the President.

“We call upon all people who care about our courts to lift their voices, and take heart in the fact that this message is starting to produce concrete results. For example, reports indicate that Brett Talley, another grossly unqualified and dangerous judicial nominee, has withdrawn his name for consideration for a lifetime appointment to the federal district court in Alabama. Likewise, we are gratified that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has joined the call of Lambda Legal and others that the President withdraw the nomination of Jeff Mateer, who was caught on the record referring to transgender children as a part of ‘Satan’s plan.’ But there are numerous other nominees in the pipeline equally unfit for the grave responsibility of a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary, including Jeff Mateer’s fellow anti-LGBT crusader, Matthew Kacsmaryk, who will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. We deserve better than these types of nominees. Senator Grassley knows it, and the American people know it. It is now time for Senator Grassley, Senator McConnell and all of their colleagues in the Senate to take action reflecting the kinds of values that were vindicated in Alabama last night – liberty, equality and justice for all.”

Judicial Nominations Schedule for Week of December 11


Wednesday, December 13

  • Following an anticipated cloture vote on Tuesday, the full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Don Willett on Wednesday.
  • There is an anticipated cloture vote on the nomination of James Ho on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk on Wednesday morning.

Thursday, December 14

  • Following an anticipated cloture vote on Wednesday, the full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of James Ho on Thursday.


More information about Don Willett from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about James Ho from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about Matthew Kacsmaryk from Lambda Legal can be found here:


Contact Info

For further information, or to speak with a representative of Lambda Legal, please contact Tom Zigo at

Related Issues: Fair Courts Project