Trump Taps Brett Kavanaugh to Replace Anthony Kennedy on Supreme Court

Donald Trump will nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the Associated Press announced in a tweet ahead of Trump’s own announcement Monday evening. 

Trump hopes the D.C. Circuit Court Judge will fill the spot on the bench vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy last month. Kavanaugh was one of four potential nominees favored by Trump, which included Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, Sixth Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, and Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Kavanaugh was considered the heavy favorite heading into Monday’s announcement. Like former Trump pick Neil Gorsuch, he clerked for Kennedy prior to sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The 53-year-old’s nomination was opposed by advocacy groups who were concerned about how the social conservative would rule on cases of queer and trans rights in Kennedy’s stead. The former justice was often a critical swing vote for LGBTQ rights, siding with the majority in landmark cases like Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized marriage equality) and Lawrence v. Texas (which legalized sodomy).

Lambda Legal noted that Kavanaugh was “promoted heavily by the Family Research Council” when he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 2005.

Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council president and a close Trump advisor, was a key supporter of the president’s failed trans military ban. His organization promotes the discredited practice of conversion therapy, believes allowing gays in the military leads to sexual assault, urges the criminalization of homosexuality, and claims trans people “threaten the public safety of women and children.”

Although Kavanaugh has sided in favor of so-called “religious liberty” in cases of faith groups seeking exemptions from the Affordable Care Act, he rarely weighed in on explicitly LGBTQ cases during his time as a judge. 

Thus, it’s difficult to know on how he would rule on challenges to many of Kennedy’s most pivotal pro-LGBTQ rulings.

Kavanaugh will now face Senate confirmation. In order to be appointed to the Supreme Court bench, he will need to receive a simple 51-vote majority in a legislative body where Republicans hold 51 seats. Trump reportedly made overtures to a handful of Democratic Senators to attend Monday’s announcement—including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III and Alabama’s Doug Jones—but they declined the invite.

After blasting his place on Trump’s shortlist for weeks, LGBTQ groups were quick to condemn Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Monday evening. 

“If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will have the chance to codify President Trump and Vice President Pence’s dangerous anti-LGBTQ record and the agenda of anti-LGBTQ groups into law for decades to come,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “Like Neil Gorsuch before him, Kavanaugh is an ideologically driven pick designed to create an activist Supreme Court that will undermine rights and protections for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all vulnerable people.

“Americans do not want or need 40 more years of Trump’s values,” she continued.

Advocacy groups have, thus, called on Democrats to filibuster the nomination after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the charge to block Merrick Garland from the bench following Antonin Scalia’s 2016 passing. That decision paved the way for Gorsuch, who opposed same-sex marriage in his 2005 dissertation.

“Donald Trump isn’t just picking his own judge—he’s picking his own jury,” said National Center for Trans Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement. “Judge Kavanaugh would be a clear rubber stamp for this administration’s direct attacks on transgender people. Whether hearing a case about the hateful ban on our brave troops or the heartless attack on transgender students, you can be sure Kavanaugh will move heaven and Earth to protect both this President’s wrongdoing and his wrong-headed policies.” 

The goal of blocking Kavanaugh’s confirmation, however, will be difficult to accomplish unless one or more conservatives flip.

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