GLAAD demands Senate Judiciary Committee hold Judge Brett Kavanaugh accountable on LGBTQ rights

GLAAD videos and letter to Senate Judiciary Committee offer LGBTQ questions to raise with Kavanaugh and document his past anti-LGBTQ remarks and strong support from leading anti-LGBTQ organizations
September 4, 2018

Sue Yacka-Bible
Director of Communications, GLAAD 

September 4, 2018, New York, NY – As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings, GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today demanded transparency and accountability on LGBTQ rights from Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court seat made vacant by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could carry out the expressed views of President Trump, who as a candidate stated that he disagreed with the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges and said he would "strongly consider" appointing judges who would overturn the decision.

“If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will have a chance to ensconce President Trump and Vice President Pence’s hate-fueled anti-LGBTQ agenda on the nation’s top court for decades to come,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “In a nation that has only forged forward in our affirmation of rights for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all vulnerable people, Kavanaugh’s confirmation threatens our progress, as well as our deepest and most closely held American values.”

President Trump’s concerning selection of Brett Kavanaugh, and his record of appointing anti-LGBTQ federal judges, has put hard won LGBTQ rights and protections in jeopardy. In response, GLAAD Campus Ambassador Tony Hernandez went to Capitol Hill to hand-deliver questions about Judge Kavanaugh’s past remarks and endorsements, and asking the 21 members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to confront Judge Kavanaugh with these questions during the confirmation hearing process. The questions included:

“While serving in the Bush administration, you worked closely with the team promoting the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage in the United States as a union of one man and one woman under federal law. And you’ve also praised Justice Scalia’s dissent on Obergefell, claiming that it’s not the court’s responsibility to “create new rights.” Now, as a judge on the high court, will you uphold the Obergefell decision in favor of marriage equality as settled precedent?”

GLAAD released videos via Instagram and Twitter of other GLAAD Campus Ambassadors reading their own suggested and compelling questions for Justice Kavanaugh including “Do you believe doctors have a right to deny medical services to transgender patients,” and “Do you think an employer should be able to fire one of their employees just because they identify as LGBTQ?”

GLAAD is also encouraging people to contact their Senators and ask them to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation at the newly announced Amp Your Voice Action Center.

Judge Kavanaugh has described Justice Antonin Scalia, as a “hero” and a “judicial role model,” and has praised his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges —the landmark ruling that made marriage equality legal in all fifty states. Throughout his career, Justice Scalia spoke extensively about his hostility towards LGBTQ people, even comparing being gay to murder. In his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, Scalia argued that the legalization of marriage equality was a “threat to American democracy” that “robs the People.”

Because much of Judge Kavanaugh’s record has not been made public — a concerning factor in this nomination process — GLAAD calls on the Senate Judiciary to factor in the company he has kept over the past decades. While serving in the George W. Bush administration, he worked closely with the team that pushed for the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage in the United States as a union of one man and one woman under federal law.

Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. District Court of Appeals was supported by the Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC operates on the belief that LGBTQ people are a threat to American society.

The Federalist Society, a pipeline for conservative judges to gain appointments, including to the Supreme Court, vetted Judge Kavanaugh. The Federalist Society has produced materials arguing against every major LGBTQ policy proposal including the Employment Non Discrimination Act, hate crimes legislation, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and transgender accommodations. Kavanaugh has been a member of the Federalist Society which was also instrumental in Chief Justice Roberts’ nomination and confirmation along with Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, all of whom were members.

Kavanaugh was also vetted, and is considered to be a “stellar” judge, by  the virulently anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation, which has claimed that marriage equality would make people less monogamous, increase abortions, and eventually lead to “group marriage,” and consistently opposes transgender rights.   

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, marriage equality would not be the only Supreme Court precedent in jeopardy. As a candidate, President Trump stated that he will only put "pro-life" judges on the court, and that he wants to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to make personal medical decisions, including access to abortion. Kavanaugh dissented on a recent decision that allowed an immigrant teenager to access an abortion.


BACKGROUND: Justice Scalia’s Anti-LGBTQ Record

Kavanaugh has openly praised Justice Scalia’s time on the Supreme Court which included a litany of anti-LGBTQ opinions and rhetoric:

— Dissenting in a 1996 ruling in favor of state’s rights to ban LGB discrimination, Scalia equated gay rights with heinous acts, writing that he “had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible — murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals — and could exhibit even 'animus' toward such conduct"

Defended his comparison of homosexuality to murder: “It's a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the 'reduction to the absurd. If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Dismissed court protections of gay rights by sarcastically asking, “What about pederasts?”...“What about child abusers?”

Didn’t believe gay sex was protected by constitutional right to privacy: "Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state”

Warned in his 2003 Lawrence v. Texas dissent that decriminalizing sodomy would lead to legalizing bestiality, incest, and more: “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.”

Called the Supreme Court’s 2015 legalization of marriage equality a “threat to American democracy” that “robs the People of... the freedom to govern themselves”

Wrote in his Lawrence dissent: “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

— Also in Lawrence, he noted that the ban on sodomy “undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty,” before defending that ban by saying, “So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery.”

Wrote of bans on gay sex: “Men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are all subject to [Texas’] prohibition of deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex.”

Incorrectly claimed that sociologists are engaged in great debate about the legitimacy of gay parents: “If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family [are]. Some States do not do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”