Lambda Legal: Senate Takes Two Steps Backwards with Dangerous Judicial Confirmations While Rest of the Nation Takes Giant Step Forward Standing Against Division and Hatred

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December 14, 2017

Washington, DC – This week, the United States Senate confirmed three nominees to the federal bench with proven and extensive anti-LGBT records: Leonard Steven Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit who was confirmed on Tuesday, Don Willett to the Fifth Circuit who was confirmed on Wednesday, and James Ho to the Fifth Circuit who was confirmed today, Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee also progressed with the nomination of anti-LGBT crusader Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas at a hearing on Wednesday, and is expected to vote soon on the nomination of fellow anti-LGBT crusader Kyle Duncan for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Lambda Legal, along with dozens of LGBT groups and civil rights organizations, has opposed Grasz’s, Willett’s, Kacsmaryk’s and Duncan’s nominations. Lambda also expressed grave concerns about the nomination of James Ho to the Fifth Circuit, and his ability 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.

In 2016, the Supreme Court decided approximately 69 cases, while U.S. Courts of Appeals decided approximately 58,000 cases and U.S. District Courts decided about 355,000. As of today, Trump has now placed 12 circuit court judges on the federal bench this year. In contrast, President Obama had only confirmed three circuit judges at this point in his administration.

Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, issued the following statement:
“Over the last several weeks, voters throughout the country, and perhaps most notably in Virginia and Alabama, have been rejecting the message of hate, fear, and division being peddled by candidates and politicians. It’s time for the Senate to follow suit, and get back in the business of serving all Americans. This 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 extremely gratified to hear this week that Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley’s nominations would not move forward. Lambda Legal led the charge against Jeff Mateer’s nomination, and joined other civil rights groups denouncing the nomination of Brett Talley. While we are relieved by reports that we have defeated these two specific nominees, we call upon the Senate to take a fresh look at the other nominees that Trump has been putting forward – nominees selected not merely in spite of, but rather because of, their anti-LGBT and anti-civil rights pedigrees. They have already handed a lifetime appointment to a ‘Brett Talley’-quality nominee this week, Steven Grasz, who shares with Talley the dishonor of being one of only four nominees since 1989 to receive a unanimous not qualified rating from the non-partisan American Bar Association. And they also confirmed a Jeff Mateer-quality nominee, Don Willett, who targeted a transgender teenager on Twitter and denigrated the right of same-sex couples to marry. Now today, they have confirmed James Ho to serve on the federal bench, despite serious questions about his ability to uphold the grave responsibility that comes with a lifetime judicial appointment.

“We simply cannot understand why Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, having recognized the unfitness of Jeff Mateer, has insisted on moving ahead with the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk, who carries the distinction of being Mateer’s former colleague and is cut from the same anti-LGBT cloth as Mateer. We are also troubled by Chairman Grassley’s efforts to advance the nomination of another anti-LGBT crusader, Kyle Duncan, nominated for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Lambda Legal has led a coalition of 35 federal, state and local groups in opposing these nominees, who Donald Trump and Mike Pence are counting on to support their anti-LGBT and anti-civil rights agenda. 

“Make no mistake about it: Matthew Kacsmaryk operates from the same playbook as Jeff Mateer, and is as unfit for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench as the man caught on video describing transgender children as part of ‘Satan’s Plan.’ Kyle Duncan’s record likewise demonstrates his contempt for LGBT people, our relationships and our families. Therefore, just as he did with Jeff Mateer, Chairman Grassley should make clear to the White House that nominees like Kyle Duncan and Matthew Kacsmaryk are simply unacceptable. All Senators, regardless of party, can and should demand better from President Trump. The American people have sent a clear message that they want the elected officials who represent them to stand up against hate and bigotry. Senators ignore that message at their own peril.”


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

More information about L. Steven Grasz from Lambda Legal can be found here:

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

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

More information about Jeff Mateer from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about Kyle Duncan 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