Lambda Legal & 15 LGBT Groups Oppose Anti-LGBT John K. Bush & Damien Schiff for Federal Bench

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June 12, 2017

Today, Lambda Legal and 15 other national LGBT groups urged opposition to the confirmations of John K. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and Damien Schiff to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, citing public statements and writings from both nominees and their repeated demonstration of “contempt for LGBT Americans, people living with HIV, women and other vulnerable populations.”

In a letter sent to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee – who are expected to hear testimony from both nominees at a confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning – LGBT groups opposed to the confirmations cite not only homophobic epithets and other anti-LGBT and misogynistic remarks made by nominees in their public speeches and writings but also records that clearly illustrate their “views on civil rights issues are fundamentally at odds with the notion that LGBT people are entitled to equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law.”

“The records of Mr. Bush and Mr. Schiff demonstrate that their appointment to the bench would cause grave harm to the LGBT community, as well as many other communities who rely on the federal judiciary to administer fair and impartial justice,” the letter states. “We urge you to reject their respective nominations.”

The letter documents troubling records on behalf of both nominees and explains how these nominees’ particular brand of “originalism” essentially writes LGBT people out of the Constitution in a way that denies them full personhood.

“Mr. Bush’s disparagement of decisions protecting the right of individuals to make highly personal decisions – the right to engage in private consensual adult relationships, and the right to procreative freedom – reveals a hostility to well established fundamental rights of liberty, privacy, autonomy and self-determination that have been the lynchpin of legal progress for LGBT people,” the letter states.

For a decade, Bush hid behind a “secret” online identity to post extensive rants attacking people with whom he disagreed, often using crude language and insults, and believes the term “faggot” is acceptable language to use in a public address. Bush has also made public statements enthusiastically endorsing the views of opponents of marriage equality for same sex couples, and in 2008 compared abortion to slavery and Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott, writing, “The two greatest tragedies in our country – slavery and abortion – relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court …”

Schiff’s record is equally as troubling, believing that states should be able to criminalize “consensual sodomy” – at odds with the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas – and has criticized efforts to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students and referring to the efforts as “teaching gayness in schools.”

“Mr. Schiff has also aligned himself with the concept of ‘natural law’ or ‘divine law’ – the theory that particular, ostensibly universal moral truths trump constitutional rights,” the letter states. “This vague notion incorporates the radical views that LGBT identities and intimate relationships are ‘unnatural.’”