Commentary, Defending Democracy

Another new low: Burr, Tillis vote to confirm bigoted Trump appointee to lifetime seat as appellate court judge

In case you missed it yesterday, the far right’s ongoing effort to remake the federal courts with the assistance of their hapless errand boy in the White House continues apace. The latest outrage: the Senate’s 50-47 vote to confirm a bigoted Louisiana lawyer named Kyle Duncan to serve a lifetime appointment on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As usual, North Carolina senators Burr and Tillis voted in lockstep with their Republican colleagues.

Duncan’s nomination and confirmation have attracted scathing critiques from a long list of civil rights and equality advocates, but for my money, Esquire columnist Charles P. Pierce probably summed up the truth about this new federal judge the best in a column entitled “A Lifetime Gig Should Never Belong to Someone Like This”:

“The nomination of one Stuart Kyle Duncan was confirmed in the Senate by the now-customary 50-47 party-line vote. I am willing to bet that the president* wouldn’t have known this guy if he’d sat on the pastry cart at the State Dinner on Tuesday night. Nonetheless, he has now visited him upon appellants from Texas, and Louisiana, and Mississippi for the next several decades, and the Fifth Circuit already was one of the most conservative courts in the country.

Quite simply, Duncan is bughouse on the subject of gay people and trans people and any other person whose sexuality gives Duncan the jittery Jesus vapors. The Human Rights Campaign has a nifty rundown of what Duncan’s been up to in the years leading to the federal bench. [Here’s an excerpt:]

Duncan’s record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy is alarming. He represented the Gloucester County School Board in their case against Gavin Grimm, the transgender high school student whose restroom access was restricted based on his transgender status. He advocated on behalf of Louisiana in the state’s bid to uphold its same-sex marriage ban and wrote an amicus brief for Louisiana and 14 other states arguing their same-sex marriage bans did not undermine the decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the landmark Supreme Court case that required the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. He also argued that a couple married in New York could not have their names added to the birth certificate of a child they adopted in Louisiana because the state did not recognize same-sex marriages at the time and its adoption statute does not allow unmarried couples to adopt.

Duncan also ramrodded the Hobby Lobby case that got a craft-supply empire a religious exemption from the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act. He got on the losing side of the Obergefell decision on marriage equality, contributing an amicus [which read, in part:]

With regard to public restrooms and other intimate facilities, there is no evidence to support social measure that promote or encourage gender transition as medically necessary or effective treatment for gender dysphoria.”

The bottom line: There is no other area in which Donald Trump is doing more damage to the nation’s future than in his destructive work to remake the federal courts. Caring and thinking people should make resisting these efforts a top priority for as long as Trump stays in office.

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