LGBTQ advocacy groups blasted Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court even after three women accused the nominee of sexual assault.
The 53-year-old judge was confirmed on Saturday following a 50-48 vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), two conservative swing votes that liberal critics hoped would block Kavanaugh from moving forward, both signaled in the days leading up to the final tally that they would vote in favor of his confirmation.
No Republican voted against his nomination.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a pro-choice conservative, voted “present” following a speech in which she claimed lawmakers “have a moral obligation to do better than this.” Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who was reportedly attending his daughter’s wedding, could not attend the proceedings.
Meanwhile, moderate Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) swung the opposite direction, joining Senate Republicans like Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the “Yes” side.
In statements reacting to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, advocacy groups called the vote a “direct threat” to LGBTQ Americans.
“Our nation’s strength lies in our system of checks and balances, in which courts enforce constitutional limitations on the powers of the other branches and ensure that governments respect the freedom and equality of women and minorities,” claimed Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “The appointment of an openly partisan nominee threatens that balance and poses a danger to the equal rights of women, religious minorities, people of color, and LGBTQ people.”
In Senate hearings over 30-year-old sexual assault allegations brought forward by Christine Blasey Ford stemming from a high-school party, Kavanaugh blamed the accusations on “revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
That quote — which ignores numerous other allegations of sexual assault, inappropriate behavior, and judicial misconduct — did nothing to quell concerns he would be reliable conservative vote against LGBTQ rights on the court.
Although Kavanaugh did not have the chance to weigh in on LGBTQ rights during his time on the D.C. circuit court bench, the judge was initially recommended to President Trump via a shortlist of SCOTUS candidates by the right-wing, anti-LGBTQ think tanks Heritage Foundation and the The Federalist Society.
LGBTQ avocacy groups lobbied for access to records from the three years Kavanaugh spent as a staff secretary under the George W. Bush administration, during which the White House pursued a federal amendment banning marriage equality.
Those records were not released.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Trans Equality, concluded that the proceedings were a “moral failure,” especially following criticism of a “limited” FBI investigation which failed to interview many key witnesses.
“Justice Kavanaugh is a direct threat to the well-being of two million transgender people, and his confirmation is an insult to the millions of people who have survived sexual assault,” Keisling claimed. “Every time the Supreme Court strips more rights away, survivors will receive a painful reminder that decisions about their lives are being made by people who have been credibly accused of sexual assault.”
Advocates are concerned that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will jeopardize court victories like Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas, which served to legalize marriage equality and decriminalize sodomy across the United States.
Both of those landmark decisions were authored by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who served as the deciding vote on many favorable LGBTQ rights rulings. While Kavanaugh once clerked for the man he is replacing on SCOTUS, he does not share his predecessor’s centrism. Surveys of his prior court decisions show he would lean to the right of every justice aside from Clarence Thomas.
By solidifying a conservative Supreme Court for what could be a generation, advocacy groups argued Kavanaugh’s nomination could serve to further what they allege is the Trump administration’s rollback of LGBTQ rights.
“Brett Kavanaugh has been granted the opportunity to ensconce President Trump and Vice President Pence’s hate-fueled anti-LGBTQ agenda on the nation’s top court for decades to come, threatening the hard-won rights of women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all vulnerable people,” claimed Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, the White House has reversed protections for trans and gender nonconfirming students, LGBTQ people seeking medical care, and federal LGBTQ employees. His administration has also attempted to prevent trans people from serving openly in the military.
LGBTQ advocates urged those outraged by Kavanaugh’s nomination to turn out to the November midterm elections, in which Democrats hope to take back control of the Senate. Currently, Republicans control the Senate by a 51-to-49 split.
A liberal majority would prevent Trump from further undermining LGBTQ rights at the Supreme Court by appointing future justices to the bench.
“Looking to tomorrow, and the coming months, we issue two challenges. First, to the American people, and to our community of LGBTQ families, if you oppose the actions of your elected officials, show up on November 6 and vote,” claimed Ed Harris, chief communications officer for the Family Policy Alliance. “Make sure your voice is heard.”
“And second, to Justice Kavanaugh: We challenge you to cast aside partisan politics and do your job: uphold the values and protections enshrined in the Constitution, for all Americans,” he added.