Get used to hearing L. Steven Grasz’s name, because he’s not going anywhere for a very, very long time.
Grasz will serve for a lifetime appointment after Senate Republicans confirmed his nomination by a 50 to 48 vote on Monday. The Trump nominee was tapped to serve on the United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in August pending a majority vote in the upper house of Congress.
The former Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Nebraska has been declared as “unfit to serve” as a federal judge by several leading civil rights groups and bar associations.
The American Bar Association questioned Grasz’s impartiality in an October press release, disputing whether he “would be able to detach himself from his deeply held social agenda and political loyalty to be able to judge objectively, with compassion and without bias.”
Grasz is the first nominee since 2006 that the ABA has universally deemed unqualified to sit in a circuit court position. The revered law association voted 14 to 0 against his appointment.
The ABA outlined its position in an eight-page document that outright condemned his 11-year record in the Attorney General’s office. Colleagues interviewed by ABA members described Grasz as “gratuitously rude” and noted that he is heavily influenced by his personal political convictions.
“[H]e spends about 50 percent of his professional time lobbying and 50 percent of his time in litigation,” the ABA notes.
If Grasz brings his personal platform to the courtroom, that could be bad news for the LGBTQ community. The 56-year-old currently sits on the board of Nebraska Family Alliance (NFA), a right-wing lobby group which advocates for the “lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman,” refers to transgender women as “men who profess a female identity,” and believes LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws are “government coercion.”
Most alarmingly, the NFA has condemned states which pass laws banning conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”), the discredited practice of attempting to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth. Likened to torture, it has been condemned by every leading medical association.
Grasz’s son, Nate, penned an op-ed for the organization’s website in which he described the growing movement to ban conversion therapy as “extreme.”
“If a young person is asking questions about their sexuality or gender, outlawing a form of talk therapy helps no one,” he claimed in July. “Forcing children to reach conclusions about these sensitive and important issues without even the option of talking through their questions or feelings with a licensed mental health professional serves the interests of a political agenda over those of a child.”
The group also touts the alleged success story of “Jayson,” a sexual abuse survivor who was able to overcome his “unwanted same-sex attractions” through conversion therapy, falsely linking pedophilia and LGBTQ identity. The NFA claims that religious counseling “transformed his life and realigned his sexual identity with his faith.”
When Grasz was asked about his beliefs on the practice during Senate confirmation hearings, he didn’t actually condemn reparative therapy. Instead the conservative told Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that he didn’t know that much about it.
“I’ve never researched the topic,” Grasz said. “I’ve never written on the topic. I’ve never commented on the topic.”
It’s not merely the Republican appointee’s views (or stated lack thereof) on conversion therapy that may alarm equality advocates. During his time in the Nebraska Attorney General’s office, he claimed that LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime protections would open the door for laws shielding bigamists and pedophiles. He also pushed to block same-sex marriages conducted in other states from being recognized in Nebraska.
The Human Rights Campaign claimed that Grasz’s appointment is yet another sign the current administration is not the “friend” to LGBTQ people Trump once claimed to be.
“Grasz’s confirmation is in line with the Trump-Pence administration’s alarming trend of advancing under-qualified nominees with terrible anti-equality records,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “This radical ideological transformation of our justice system will lead to long-term, harmful consequences that will live well beyond the Trump-Pence administration.”
The Nebraskan is one of several court nominees tapped by Trump with a vociferously anti-LGBTQ record.