Before accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh roiled the nation, key Republican swing vote Senator Lisa Murkowski sat down with queer and transgender activists to weigh their concerns about the judge.
Four activists pressed Murkowski to oppose Kavanaugh during an approximately hour-long meeting on September 12. Among them was Lillian Lennon, a rising transgender activist whose role in helping defeat Anchorage’s anti-trans bathroom measure launched her into the national spotlight. Lennon is currently the transgender leadership field organizer for Planned Parenthood, which dispatched the group to D.C.
“I shared my personal story of being sent away as a young kid after coming out to my parents,” Lennon told INTO. “I felt really positive coming out of the meeting.”
Elizabeth North told the senator about her experiences giving birth to a stillborn baby, and why she needed birth control. North said the meeting ran over by 15 minutes — she felt it was because Murkowski was invested in hearing the group out.
“I think it was very successful,” said North. “She was very welcoming and very gracious and she made sure we felt like we had really been heard.”
Also in attendance was spoken word artist MoHagani Magnetek, another leading trans activist against the Anchorage bathroom measure.
The group said they shared personal stories and pressed Murkowski to consider how Kavanaugh’s confirmation would not just halt LGBTQ progress, but in fact, risk sending it back in time.
The Alaska Republican has historically backed LGBTQ rights. In April, she voted against an extreme anti-trans bathroom ballot measure in Anchorage and went the extra step of disclosing her vote publicly. According to her communications director, Karina Petersen, Murkowski was particularly “passionate” about the issue.
“Her reason for voting ‘No’ is that she believes we need development, not division in our community,” Petersen told INTO at the time.
Murkowski also backed marriage equality in 2013.
But Lennon said despite that progressive lean on LGBTQ issues, the senator did not indicate how she would vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, now mired by allegations of sexual abuse.
“It sounded like she might not stand with us now,” Lennon said. “She said that we are going to get past this whole Kavanaugh thing.”
Progressive advocates vociferously opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination as a threat to the decades of advancements for LGBTQ rights. Last month, GLAAD called on senators to demand he clarify his stance on LGBTQ rights, adding that he had the backing of extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations.
Kavanaugh has also praised anti-LGBTQ Justice Antonin Scalia as a “hero,” noting his dissent against the Supreme Court Obergefell decision, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
During his confirmation hearing, he repeatedly dodged questions on his stances regarding workplace protections for LGBTQ people and marriage equality.
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